Three Points: Missed penalty for RSL, evaluating how cheap Houston’s goal was, and Maikel Chang shines

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Real Salt Lake forward Bobby Wood (7) tries to drive the ball away from Houston defenders during a MLS game between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 26, 2021.

Sandy • Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 1-1 draw to the Houston Dynamo by beat writer Alex Vejar.

1. Why wasn’t RSL awarded a penalty?

The IFAB Laws of the Game clearly indicate that if a player holds an opponent, the opposing team gets a direct free kick. But if that offense happens in the penalty area, then the opposing team can take a penalty.

In extra time of the second half, midfielder Damir Kreilach tried to go up and meet a pass for a potential shot. But his arm appeared to be held down by Houston’s Tim Parker.

Here is video of the sequence.

The announcers in on the TUDN broadcast thought RSL should’ve been awarded a penalty, as did fans on social media.

Even after referee Nima Saghafi spent a few minutes looking at video of the sequence, the decision to not award a penalty was upheld. But the question is, why?

If Parker holding Kreilach’s arm is missed in real time, OK, that’s mildly understandable. The game was in extra time, things were frenetic, maybe the referee’s vision was obstructed by other players in the box.

But to view video and see Parker holding Kreilach’s arm and then Kreilach falling to the field, and still not call that foul? That is confusing. It seems like a clear and obvious error was made in not calling the foul, and that’s usually the criteria to overturn a previous decision.

It seems clear that one of the above Twitter users is right: RSL got hosed.

2. How cheap was that conceded goal?

Coach Freddy Juarez, defender Justen Glad and forward Bobby Wood all said different versions of the same thing: The goal RSL conceded to Houston in the second half was cheap and very preventable.

Looking at the entire sequence, it starts with a pass to Kreilach into the box. He tries to hit an open Maikel Chang to his right, but that pass is intercepted, starting the counter.

Midfielder Nick Besler aggressively tries to recover and win the ball back, leaving him deep in the backfield when the forward pass is made. That left midfielder Pablo Ruíz in a position where he had to sprint for dear life in order to try stopping the play.

And Ruíz did try to stop the sequence — desperately. He clearly tries to take a foul by all-out hugging two Houston players, but the referee didn’t make the call. Juarez said after the game that he would’ve liked to see RSL maybe put a Houston player on the ground to stop the transition. In that sense, credit goes to the Dynamo for being able to keep possession and stay upright in order to keep their advantage.

Then a little later, Maximiliano Urruti flashes into open space unimpeded and receives the ball, surveys his options and takes an open shot that goes in. Not much resistance from RSL, which is why everyone was so frustrated about giving conceding there.

So taking everything into account, it’s not exactly a 10/10 on the Cheap Goal Scale, but it’s probably around a 7.

3. Maikel Chang is effective

Something that got lost in another frustrating home result for RSL is just how effective Maikel Chang was in extended minutes. He played 66 minutes, passed with 80% accuracy and contributed five key passes.

In light of that, it might be instructive just to take a look back at some of the most positive attacking sequences in which Chang was involved.

• 10th minute: Makes a lead pass that led to Herrera’s cross that led to the corner kick that led to defender Justen Glad’s goal.

• 33rd minute: Makes a headed pass ahead to forward Rubio Rubin that led to long throw-in into the box from defender Aaron Herrera.

• 38th minute: Makes a floated cross into the box to Kreilach that leads to a headed shot that is saved that led to corner kick.

• 39th minute: Makes a simple lateral pass to an open Ruíz that leads to a shot on goal.

• 41st minute: Makes a pass ahead to Herrera that led to a cross into the box.

• 43rd minute: Puts himself in the box and attempts a headed shot off Runsák’s cross that just misses.

• 45+3 minutes: Presents a passing angle, passes back to Herrera for a shot that has to be saved.

• 47th minute: Plays a two-man game with Rubin where receives a pass, goes forward, tries to pass to Rubin, all leading to a throw-in.

• 62nd minute: Makes a cross from within the box to Kreilach for a headed shot that needed to be saved.

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