SALT LAKE CITY – Real Salt Lake lost to Atlanta United on the road after struggling throughout the first 45 minutes when they conceded both goals. It was only Atlanta United’s second victory in the last 10 games and the fourth straight game in which Real Salt Lake failed to collect three points.
Manager Pablo Mastroeni opted to make several changes for the deal midweek. Nick Besler, Erik Holt, Tate Schmitt and Diego Luna all started for Real Salt Lake. Luna’s departure was his first for Real Salt Lake since acquiring El Paso Locomotive on June 2.
Mastroeni used the 3-5-2 formation for the first time since the road win over Sporting Kansas City on March 26.
Both teams entered the game desperate for a result. Real Salt Lake had been mediocre in their last five games while Atlanta had won only once in their previous nine games.
Disastrous departure from Real Salt Lake
It was Atlanta United at home who looked the most comfortable and dominated possession and the pace of the game. The first breakthrough came in the 7th minute when poor defending allowed talented United striker Ronaldo Cisneros to score. Cisneros clipped his left foot and hit his shot past Zac MacMath and into the bottom left corner of the net.
The momentum only picked up throughout the first half hour of the game and Real Salt Lake were lucky not to concede a second as Atlanta United continued to spice up MacMath’s goal.
Botched turnovers in the middle of the park from Real Salt Lake led to multiple quick counterattacks and the Real Salt Lake backline was unprepared for the onslaught.
“I just think maybe a little drop in confidence, we need to be more precise on the ball and moving for each other,” Meram said after the game ended.
The league then doubled in the 33rd minute when Pablo Ruiz attempted a pass which was caught 35 yards from goal, a touch on his left foot and Cisneros buried his brace.
However, against the run of play just five minutes later, Justin Meram cut his left foot and swung a cross into the box which found centre-back Johan Kappelhof’s header. It was Kappelhof’s first goal of his career after 143 games in MLS.
Kappelhof’s goal gave Real Salt Lake a glimmer of hope before halftime, but a lot of adjustments were needed to change the result.
Improved second half
Mastroeni made two moves at half-time when he took off Luna and Pablo Ruiz and brought on Sergio Córdova and Jasper Löffelsend in a bid to take control of the game.
Another move was made in the 63rd and 68th minutes when Maikel Chang, Bode Davis and Chris Kablan joined the game as replacements for Tate Schmitt, Justin Meram and Andrew Brody respectively.
The changes brought a new sense of belief and life to the pace of the game for Real Salt Lake. It was a stark change from the first 45 minutes where Real Salt Lake were physically outmatched.
Next RSL game
Real Salt Lake return home this Sunday night when they host Sporting Kansas City at 7:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The match will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports and KSL 5 TV apps or on KSL Sports.com.