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Three Points: RSL coach works refs, team can’t finish again, and a full capacity Rio Tinto Stadium

Three observations from RSL’s third consecutive winless game.

(Isaac Hale | Special to The Tribune) Real Salt Lake head coach Freddy Juarez talks with defender Andrew Brody (2) during a MLS game between Real Salt Lake and Houston Dynamo FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, June 26, 2021.

Here are three observations from Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 loss to LAFC.

1. Freddy Juarez works the refs

RSL’s coach is one of the most mild-mannered people in the organization. He often has a smile on his when speaking with media, he’s courteous, and he always always puts a positive spin on practically everything having to do with the team.

So it was surprising that after the LAFC game, when asked what he thought of the road team’s late gamesmanship, Juarez went right after the referees’ management of what he deemed “a lot of flopping, a lot of going and breaking the momentum” by LAFC.

“It’s up to the ref,” Juarez said. “The ref has to deal with those things. If I go and watch all these games right now that are going on, you’re going to see the minutes that they get. The trainers had to step on the field four times, a bunch of substitutions, and he gave five [additional minutes]. That’s on the ref. They have to put the law down, deal with it and then [it’s on] the opponent.”

LAFC definitely seemed to stay on the ground for a long time when contact appeared to happen with an RSL player, or waste time in other ways.

Late in the game, Diego Rossi took his time subbing out of the game, and Pablo Ruiz gently pushed him toward the sideline to make him go faster. A few minutes earlier, an LAFC player was on the field stretching out his leg when Justen Glad picked him up, leading to a scuffle between the two teams.

Juarez is not one to call out refereeing. And he made sure to commend RSL for how it played against LAFC, going toe-to-toe with a team that historically has dominated it in the regular season. But even when he was answering a question in Spanish from a Spanish reporter, Juarez took one more pass at the refereeing.

“I think the game got a little bit out of control from what they [LAFC] were starting to do,” Juarez said, referring to LAFC’s actions. “It’s not the opponent’s fault. It’s the fault of the referee, who needs to control that situation.”

It seems likely that Juarez will see a fine for his comments.

2. RSL can’t finish again

The game against LAFC felt somewhat similar to last weeks against Houston in that RSL had a good amount of chances to score, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Against Houston, it resulted in a draw. Against Los Angeles, it resulted in a loss.

LAFC scored with about 20 minutes remaining in the game. Moments later, Rubio Rubin chipped LA’s goalkeeper onto to have the ball cleared from the end line at the last second. Had that attempt gone in, it’s a tie game.

RSL had four shots on goal to LAFC’s one. Seven of its 14 shots came from inside the box. LAFC keeper Tomás Romero had to make a couple of exceptional saves to keep RSL off the score sheet.

But the frustration players felt after the game was just as familiar, and just as palpable as the week prior. Albert Rusnák was crouched at midfield after the game, looking upset. He talked about his mindset in that moment.

“I tried all game,” Rusnák said. “I tried to get that final goal. I was getting into some spaces throughout the whole game. … We have created, as a team, very good chances today. And once again, we get punished. A couple of things that they have created and then one of them went in for them, and we haven’t capitalized on the chances that we created. So it’s frustrating.”

Rusnák had five key passing and a shot on goal on Saturday.

Rusnák said the tactical approach to games has been correct because RSL is not getting dominated by teams and is creating more enough chances to score. What’s right now lacking is just the finishing.

3. A full capacity Rio Tinto Stadium

The RSL-LAFC game drew more than 18,000 fans. Yes, part of that might have been because there was fireworks after the game. But still, it was the first game where the stadium operated at full capacity since the pandemic began last March.

It was a good atmosphere with lots of cheering, booing and dueling supporters sections. There were fans cheering on a man in the stands downing the rest of a Modelo beer. It just seemed like, as they say, nature is healing.

Here is to more normal-feeling nights like Saturday.

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