SANDY, UTAH – Albert Rusnak tallied a goal and two assists in the second half to give Real Salt Lake (1W-3L-2D) their first win of the season, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-3L-1D) 3-0 on a snowy Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Rusnak opened the scoring in the 54th minute, before setting up Luke Mulholland and Yura Movsisyan as Salt Lake won their first match under new head coach Mike Petke.
The spirited surge from Salt Lake was too much for the ‘Caps to overcome, as Vancouver wrapped up a busy week that saw them play three matches in eight days.
Battling a hectic slate, an injury bug, plus the elements on the evening, head coach Carl Robinson made six changes to his lineup from Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match versus Tigres UANL, and introduced a 3-5-2 formation for the first time.
Salt Lake looked to take the early advantage but Ecuadorian forward Joao Plata came up empty on three good looks in the first 25 minutes. On the other end, the ‘Caps tried to counter with Jake Nerwinski and Marcel de Jong attacking on the flanks to feed Fredy Montero up top, but the visitors were stopped each time.
The RSL attack went full-on with the pressure late in the opening frame. First, Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted got in front of a skipping attempt from Rusnak in the 39th minute. Then Movsisyan and Mulholland each were off target in a pair of clean chances just before the halftime whistle, sending the two teams into intermission scoreless, but perhaps giving a glimpse of what was to come in the second half.
Snow continued to come down through halftime and for the rest of the fixture. The tricky playing surface did not prevent RSL from opening the scoring in the 54th minute, however. Starting with a long Plata throughball, Rusnak darted into the Vancouver box then stopped on a dime, before calmly slipping a shot through traffic into the bottom left corner. The goal was the first in MLS play for the Czech newcomer.
Salt Lake doubled their advantage in similar fashion in the 74th minute, this time with Rusnak’s long ball as the provider, and Movsisyan finishing from around the same spot, putting one past Ousted’s fingertips and finding the inside of the far right post.
Mulholland put the match on ice just four minutes later. Ousted got a slight touch on Rusnak’s corner from the right side, but Mulholland was ready for a left-footed volley right on the edge of the six-yard box for the final tally.
Whitecaps FC now head home for next Friday’s date with Seattle Sounders FC, the first of two consecutive Cascadia Cup matches for Vancouver. Kickoff at BC Place is at 7 p.m.