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'We're in this together': RSL responds to give Pablo Mastroeni first win as interim manager

Real Salt Lake players celebrate after scoring their second goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against FC Dallas in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. Real Salt Lake won 3-2.

Real Salt Lake players celebrate after scoring their second goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against FC Dallas in Sandy on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. Real Salt Lake won 3-2. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)


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SANDY — It's been an odd couple of weeks for Albert Rusnak and Real Salt Lake. After all, it's not often your manager leaves for an assistant coaching position at another club like Freddy Juarez did. That only added onto what has already been a tumultuous season that's featured a long search for a new owner.

So maybe it shouldn't have been a huge surprise RSL laid a massive egg Sunday in Vancouver. The problem? That disaster looked to have followed the side home Saturday against FC Dallas.

For the first 40 minutes, RSL was outclassed and outplayed by another team that's chasing them in the standings. This time, though, RSL was able to right the ship.

Behind goals from Justen Glad, Jonathan Menendez and Rusnak, RSL made a comeback from an early deficit for a 3-2 win Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The win kept RSL in the final playoff position in the Western Conference.

"We were just sloppy with our passes," interim manager Pablo Mastroeni said of the opening 40 minutes. "And our giveaways led to a lot of counter attacks and a couple of dangerous chances for Dallas."

One of those resulted in an FC Dallas goal in the 19th minute. An unforced giveaway near midfield put Dallas on the counterattack, and Franco Jara slipped behind the Salt Lake defense and pushed the ball around RSL keeper Andrew Putna to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

More Dallas chances followed as RSL struggled to get organized in the midfield. RSL, though, was gifted a bit of life late in the half as Glad ran unmarked into the box and got his head on an Aaron Herrera cross for the equalizer in the 42nd minute. The goal came against the run of play; but after it, RSL looked like a different team.

A chance to go over things and make some adjustments at halftime didn't hurt either.

"The flip switched a little bit there and I felt like we got on top of the game, controlled the ball on both sides and dictated the way we wanted the game to be and I think the tempo was really high," Mastroeni said.

It didn't take long for RSL to take the lead following the break.

In the 54th minute, Menendez slammed home a rebound after Noah Powder sent a ball into the box that was deflected, which forced a diving save from Dallas keeper Phelipe Megiolaro. Rusnak put the home side up 3-1 with a low shot from the top of the box that Megiolaro got a hand on but couldn't keep out.

That goal made it so that even with FC Dallas's Jesus Ferreira scoring on a remarkable solo effort in the 80th minute, RSL left Rio Tinto with three points and gave Mastroeni his first win as interim manager.

Rusnak believes more victories will be coming. It's been a strange time, no doubt, but RSL found a way to respond on Saturday.

"We all agreed we're in this together," Rusnak said. "This team, Pablo and his staff, and our fans. We can't look back and kind of let this season just slip away from us and then be at the end blaming it because we don't have an owner or Freddy left. So we got to move forward. These things happen in sports. And after a disappointing result and performance last week, I feel like we had a great response tonight and there's something to build on."

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