SANDY — Rio Tinto Stadium was electric as Real Salt Lake opened its home schedule of the 2020 season against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon.
An early goal and tough defense by New York partnered with a goal taken away by video review didn’t seem to faze Real Salt Lake as RSL battled back to get a 1-1 draw in extra time. The Claret and Cobalt gave fans a home opener to remember as lots of quick play turned into a last-second draw between RSL and the Red Bulls.
"It’s great to be back," Real Salt Lake's Corey Baird said. "It’s always great to be at home playing in front of our home fans. Last year we were the second-best team at home, so we’re looking to replicate that and keep working away on the road."
New York made a few good runs early but a Zac MacMath save seemed to give Real Salt Lake a bit of a spark. That spark led RSL down the field where two consecutive corner kicks gave the Claret and Cobalt their first scoring opportunities of the day.
All the momentum being built was quickly diminished as the Red Bulls' Cristian Casseres struck first, driving the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
Salt Lake’s squad had many opportunities to score in the first half, chalking up 11 shots with four being on target. The Red Bulls only had two shots on target in the first 45 minutes, but they made one of those count on the scorecard.
One of the closest chances for RSL came in the 29th minute, when Albert Rusnak’s cross was deflected by Nedum Onuoha towards an open right post. Unfortunately for RSL, New York’s Kyle Duncan slid in to keep the ball off the line.
Slick defending would favor the Red Bulls once again, but not before New York’s Patrick Seagrist drew a yellow card with a hard tackle against Rusnak. Real Salt Lake’s set-piece nearly found nylon, but the Red Bulls' Sean Davis blocked that scoring chance.
Onuoha put his perspective on the early missed chances.
"To be honest, they were quite committed to keeping the ball out of the goal," he said. "They made maybe two or three big saves off the line, so you can’t really account for that.
"On another day I think we win that game comfortably."
The match was chippy with hard tackles and pushing and shoving as three more yellow cards were handed out to RSL’s Marcelo Silva and Douglas Martinez alongside the Red Bull’s Duncan.
Through the chippiness, Real showed fancy footwork and strong passing ability while pressing the Red Bulls and creating chances in the second half.
RSL fans exploded with excitement in the 68th minute as Baird’s cross found Martinez for a header resulting in a goal. That excitement melted seconds later as video review took Real Salt Lake’s goal off the board.
Quite a few moments later, the excitement made its way back for the Real Salt Lake faithful.
Rio Tinto Stadium ignited with chants of "Believe" as Aaron Herrera sent a cross in the box that met the forehead of Damir Kreilach. Kreilach’s header scorched the net for a 91st-minute goal to knot the game at 1-1.
"To score the last-minute goal, we are very happy about this equalizer," Kreilach said after the game. "We had so many chances that we needed to do to try and get three points."
Many of Real Salt Lake’s players were disappointed that they didn’t come away with more than a draw at home.
"The way we played today, we dominated from the first minute," Kreilach said. "We had a creative first half and the second half as well. This shows how much quality we have, especially when we’re at home. This is why we have to be satisfied." He continued. "We are a little bit disappointed because as I said, we deserved three points today."
Baird also chimed in, saying, "Every game there’s chances you have where you think you should’ve scored." He continued. "You could easily say we could’ve had seven golden opportunities and in a normal game I think we put at least four of those away."
Not everybody seemed disappointed with the result. RSL head coach Freddy Juarez said, "I’m super happy with the group." He continued, "Sometimes (the ball) just doesn’t go in. We created point blank shots and the goalie made some very good saves. I told the group, ‘the more you play like that, the more you’re going to have wins than losses.’"
Real Salt Lake will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday March 14. The match will kick off at 3 p.m. MST and will be televised on KSL TV, with the radio broadcast on ESPN 700.