SANDY, UTAH – Visiting one of the toughest home squads in Major League Soccer, Minnesota United relied on defense through much of a Saturday night match and eventually came away with a 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake.
“I thought if we had a little more quality in the attacking areas, we would have won the game,” Loons coach Adrian Heath said. “I thought our defense was excellent this evening. We restricted a real good attacking team.
“Restricted them to a few long-range efforts, but certainly I thought in the first half, with a little bit more quality, I thought we would have caused more problems.”
The Loons scored in the 57th minute when Darwin Quintero knocked in a shot off a corner kick that was deflected to him by teammate Mason Toye.
But Real Salt Lake answered almost in kind 13 minutes later.
In a sequence that also began with a corner kick, RSL’s Jefferson Savarino retrieved a centered ball that went wide right and recentered for a shot by Marcelo Silva.
That went into the net for Real Salt Lake, and that score held to the end.
“I feel like we played a really good defensive game,” the Loons’ Jan Gregus said. “We had a few chances, and I feel like we could’ve scored a lot more. We wanted to take three points [with a win], but we’ll take one.”
Minnesota United (10-7-4), playing the final game of a stretch of seven games over 22 days, is tied for fourth in the Western Conference with San Jose. Real Salt Lake (9-9-3) stands eighth, but RSL had a 7-2 mark when playing on its home pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The first 20 minutes of the game saw both teams get a pair of good shot opportunities, although neither ended up being on goal. In the 23rd minute, Jan Gregus sent a left-footed attempt just wide right of the net for the match’s best chance at that juncture.
On three occasions in the first half, potential breakaways by the visitors were stymied when passes to open teammates sailed long.
“We spoke to the players about how the ball travels a little bit further and a little bit quicker here, with the air,” Heath said. “But on the whole, would we have settled for a point, probably before the game? It’s a difficult place to play, but the way the game panned out, I thought if we showed a bit more craftiness, a little more guile, a little bit more quality, we might have got three points.”
While overall limiting Real Salt Lake’s offense through their backfield, the Loons needed a sterling effort by keeper Vito Mannone on the first chance of the second half to keep the game scoreless. A dive to his left by Mannone, on a shot by RSL’s Savarino, came just out of the break.
The Loons’ best chance down the stretch came from Gregus, who bounced a shot from 25 yards off the right post with five minutes to play.
“I was surprised it didn’t go in,” Gregus said. “What can I do? That’s football.”
Saturday: vs. Vancouver, 7 p.m.