RSL Trending Up After Juarez Steps Down


Jack Gambassi

Real Salt Lake defender, Donny Toia (#4), in the match vs Houston Dynamo at Rio Tinto stadium in Sandy, UT on June 26, 2021. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


When Real Salt Lake players woke up on Friday, August 27, they expected to be preparing for a Sunday evening match in Vancouver with Freddy Juarez at the helm of the Western Conference playoff-contending team. Instead, the franchise was blindsided by the sudden and frankly unconventional resignation of Juarez. 

Juarez became RSL’s head coach in 2019 and had been with the franchise in varying capacities since 2010; now he has accepted an assistant coach position with the Seattle Sounders. Pablo Mastroeni has been named interim coach for Real.

In light of the sudden change, RSL could be forgiven for a dismal performance that weekend in Vancouver, falling 4-1 to the Whitecaps in a listless performance. The team turned then things around with a 3-2 victory at home over visiting FC Dallas.

LAFC 3 – RSL 2

With Mastroeni calling the shots, they had a chance to pick up a second consecutive Western Conference win in a row as they traveled to see LAFC (8-9-6, 30 points) for the third time this season on Sept. 12. Previously, LAFC topped RSL 1-0 in Salt Lake July 3 and stole a 2-1 victory on their home turf July 17.

In the third and final matchup this season between these two teams, seventh seeded RSL (8-9-6, 30 points) conceded a goal in the first minute of the match to Cristian Arango. The goal 20 seconds in broke the MLS record for fastest goal to start a match, besting his teammate Eduard Atuesta’s goal against Seattle in April.

Real didn’t trail for long as Damir Kreilach scored his team-leading ninth goal in the 28th minute. The good vibes didn’t last for RSL, as they gave up another goal to Arango, who would go on to be named the Week 24 MLS Player of the Week for his efforts, giving LAFC a 2-1 advantage just two minutes later.

Real leveled the score once again three minutes into the second half when Anderson Julio calmly beat keeper Tomás Romero with a right footed shot into the right corner of the net. 

With the score tied at 2, RSL suffered their lone major blunder of the match. Defender Toni Datković attempted a backpass to keeper David Ochoa, only to watch the ball roll wide of Ochoa and into the net, giving LAFC the 3-2 victory. 

Staying in California, Real then turned their attention to San Jose and the Earthquakes on Wednesday night.

Earthquakes 3 – RSL 4

Playing from behind has been a familiar feeling for Real Salt Lake (9-9-6, 30 points) all season long with the team keeping most matches close. The inability to convert scoring chances or take advantage of mistakes has plagued RSL during the 2021 MLS season.

Again trailing 1-0 after a San Jose goal off the left foot of Javier López, the Real offense peppered San Jose with six first half shots on frame but were unable to find the back of the net. Until, that is, Rubio Rubín (6) capitalized on a loose ball in front of the net after an Earthquake save. Rubio’s goal in stoppage time evened the match 1-1 heading into halftime.

From there, both offenses exploded, creating an entertaining match even for the most stubborn American fans with five goals scored across the final 45 minutes.

Albert Rusnák (7) gave Real their first advantage of the road trip in the 49th minute. But the lead was short lived as López scored his second goal of the match less than a minute later.

López wasn’t finished. 15 minutes later, he would take down the RSL defense again, notching  a hat-trick and giving the Earthquakes a 3-2 lead.

In the 71st minute, Rusnák lined up a free kick, centering it perfectly in the center box where Justin Meram got just enough of his head on the ball to deflect it into goal after a ricochet off Earthquake defender Oswaldo Alanís.

Not satisfied with walking away with a 3-3 draw, both teams continued with frenzied offensive attacks forcing saves from Ochoa and JT Marcinkowski on both ends of the pitch.

In the 81st minute, Rusnák (8) notched his second assist of the night and RSL capped off its comeback hopes when Rubín took Rusnák’s pass and blasted it past the left post. It was Rubín’s seventh goal of the season, tying him with Rusnák for second on the team.

Marcelo Silva was forced from the match early due to injury and was replaced by Erik Holt.

Back on the Pitch

RSL looks to maintain the momentum as they return home to the RioT on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Facing the Seattle Sounders and former head coach Juarez, it’s certain this match will have more than just three points and bragging rights on the line. 


[email protected]