By Ivan Yeo
It has not been the greatest of seasons for Real Salt Lake.
RSL, usually a contender in the Western Conference, has struggled a lot in 2017, as they came into Tuesday night’s Independence Day match against the host Los Angeles Galaxy sitting in last place in the West. RSL has endured a lot this year, such as a coaching change three games into the season that saw Jeff Cassar fired and Mike Petke take his place, to the usually spat of injuries, players out for international duty and bad luck.
However, on Tuesday night, RSL showed flashes of rekindling some of the old magic against a team they have frequently battled against in playoffs past. The performances of young players such as Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino and Luke Mulholland combined with battle-tested veterans like Kyle Beckerman, Yura Movsisyan and Nick Rimando offered a glimpse of hope for RSL in its 6-2 win over the Galaxy.
“Every time you get win specially away from home, its very big, especially for a team like us that hasn’t had the best of years this year so far and three points is something we could be proud of,” Rimando said of the result.
Rusnak had a goal and two assists, Savarino got a brace in the second half, Movsisyan and Joao Plata tallied in the match as well as Beckerman, whose goal right before halftime proved to be a difference maker.
“They’re both phenomenal players and, obviously, both relatively new to this league,” Petke said. “Rusnak has been here a bit longer, but Savarino just got here. We have been talking about the excitement about those two being on the field together.”
RSL struck first in the 36th minute. Plata passed to Mulholland, who played a ball to Rusnak and he broke for goal. Rusnak got inside the penalty area and fired a shot that beat keeper Clement Diop far post. The Galaxy had an answer five minute later, as Jose Villarreal lobbed a ball forward, Ashley Cole timed his run well enough to get behind the RSL defense into the penalty area and Cole slotted a shot past Rimando near post for the equalizer.
RSL however got a momentum-changing goal just before halftime. Rusnak sent a corner into the box and Beckerman dived for the header and succeeded, as the shot got past Diop into the back net. Beckerman then broke out an imitation of former Galaxy player Robbie Keane’s cartwheel goal celebration, a move Beckerman has seen perhaps one too many times over the years.
“I kind of blacked out but I have so much respect for that guy and he’s done that to us plenty of times,” Beckerman said. “It was just a tribute to him.”
The second half belonged to RSL. Movsisyan gave RSL the two-goal cushion in the 62nd minute, as he redirected Demar Phillips’ cross past Diop far post. After that however was when the floodgates opened up, and it was Savarino that burst those gates open. Savarino’s first goal in the 72nd minute came in spectacular fashion, as he collected a cleared out corner kick outside the box, took a quick touch before firing a 21-foot volley that beat Diop far post. Savarino got the brace five minutes later, as Rusnak’s long range volley was initially saved by Diop, but the ball fell to Savarino, and he quickly shot a ball past Diop into the back net. RSL wrapped up its scoring spree in the 80th minute, as some quick touch passing ended with Brooks Lennon springing Plata for goal, Plata rounded Diop and sent the shot into the open net. Not even a late Galaxy goal by Bradford Jameson IV could dampen RSL’s mood.
“It’s unacceptable,” Galaxy head coach Curt Onalfo said. “It’s disappointing, not just to the sold out crowd that showed up tonight. I’m very disappointed.”
RSL will have almost two weeks to savor its win, as its next MLS match will not be until July 19, when it visits Portland. The Galaxy’s next MLS match will also be on that same date, but they will have a few matches inside that timeslot, as they face San Jose in the US Open Cup on Monday at Avaya Stadium, followed by a friendly against Manchester United at StubHub Center on July 15.