SANDY — Perhaps by now, every team in Major League Soccer knows what they are getting from the 2020 edition of Real Salt Lake.
A strong defense. An experienced goalkeeper. And a fight for every goal, and every scoring opportunity, even.
If they didn’t know by now, they should.
Next step? Finding a potent offense to turn draws into wins.
Zac MacMath made three saves to keep Minnesota United FC off the board, but Real Salt Lake couldn’t break through either in a scoreless draw Friday night in the second game of the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando, Florida.
Minnesota keeper Tyler Miller made two saves for the Loons, who are tied with RSL atop Group D with four points apiece.
RSL will rue a handful of missed opportunities — with 10 shots but only two on target — but will gladly take the point, and another clean sheet into next week’s group finale against Sporting Kansas City.
“Against a team like Minnesota who has been very good in this tournament and before, we’ll take a shutout against them,” MacMath said. “We left the game feeling like we deserved more, but any time we can keep a zero in a tournament format like this and keep getting points, we’ll keep pushing for the next game.”
Credit goes to Minnesota, too, RSL coach Freddy Juarez said. The Loons opened the season with wins over Portland and San Jose in March before the coronavirus-inspired league hiatus, then opened the tournament with a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City. Similarly, RSL opened with a 2-0 shutout of rival Colorado.
“We always go for the win. We wanted to win, and we wanted to build off the Colorado game,” Juarez said. “Maybe we just could’ve been a little more dynamic in the final third. But overall, we always want to go for the win. The opponent matters, and this is a very good opponent.”
RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak had to be subbed off around the half-hour mark, being helped off the pitch by the team’s training staff as Justin Meram jogged on to fill his role.
It was an unfortunate sub for RSL, and perhaps unfortunate for Meram, who admitted it took him “a few minutes” to identify the rhythm of the game.
“I just wanted to come in and make a difference,” Meram said. “I think I started a little slow when I came in. It was a quick substitution, seeing Albert come down. But I got into the pocket, able to combine and create. I’ve got to make the runs, try to break down their defense and get an opportunity.”
RSL did not register a shot on goal in the first half, according to Opta stats. But Minnesota ended the half with a banger off the near post, followed by a rebound attempt that MacMath corralled to keep the scoreless draw.
“Once we get close to halftime, we’re just trying to keep the team in control of the game,” MacMath said. “Thankfully we pushed it off the post, and kept the clean sheet heading into the half.”