Real Salt Lake settles for 1 point from a frustrating match vs. Columbus

RSL had plenty of chances but couldn’t get the winning goal against the reigning MLS champs.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Leo the lion, Real Salt LakeÕs mascot, cheers after a goal as RSL hosts the St. Louis City during an MLS soccer match in Sandy on Saturday, March 30, 2024.

Sandy • Real Salt Lake did everything but score.

Saturday night’s 0-0 draw against the reigning MLS champions Columbus Crew was largely defined by fouls, yellow cards, lots of chances — but no goals.

“You can’t get to the playoffs by counting points now,” RSL coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “… One thing is performance — did we execute the plan that we set forth? I think we did. The only thing lacking was the goals, [which] is the hardest thing in football so we will just keep going on.”

With a total of eight shots on goal, Salt Lake played offensively throughout the game with constant pressure. They had several good opportunities from attackers Chicho Arango, Andres Gomez and 17-year-old Fidel Barajas.

“I think we just need to make better decisions in that final third and at times, have more patience,” Mastroeni said.

One of the most notable chances came from Arango, the league’s scoring leader, who won a header from a set piece sent in by center back Brayan Vera in the 23rd minute. The ball was headed for the top left corner of the goal, but Columbus goalkeeper Evan Bush saved it.

RSL fans may have thought their team’s clear-cut opportunity had come after 85 minutes, as Anderson Julio was seemingly fouled in the box to win a penalty. But it wasn’t to be because Julio was offside when the pass from Barajas was sent into the box.

It wasn’t the first time the referees frustrated RSL on Saturday.

The game had nine yellow cards, which is about double the average of Major League Soccer match. RSL committed 22 fouls, with Columbus making 10.

In the 79th minute of Real Salt Lake vs the Columbus Crew, the 18th foul was called against the home side. Thousands of fans at a sold-out American First Field aired their anger.

“It’s really difficult when there’s so many yellow cards shown and then there’s yellow card fouls after that that don’t get seen by referees,” Mastroeni said.

This was the first time RSL got a clean sheet since the snowy 3-0 home win against LAFC five matches ago, which Mastroeni saw as a positive takeaway from a frustrating game.

“I think defensively, we were very aggressive, and from that we won a lot of good balls in really good areas,” Mastroeni said. “Everyone did a good job of making sure we got a clean sheet and against a team like this, that’s obviously never easy and I think it’s a great time to push us going forward.”

Center back Justin Glad, who topped RSL legend Javier Morales’ total minutes in this game, said he was pleased with his team’s effort and commitment.

“I thought we did a really good job limiting their shots in the first half and in the second half the game opened up a little bit,” Glad said. " … Our whole thing is to get one game better, so hopefully in our next game we score.”

Salt Lake’s next two games are away against the Chicago Fire and the Philadelphia Union.