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November 29, 2021
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Rubio Rubin’s fast start, Damir Kreilach’s heroics continue in Real Salt Lake’s road draw with Dallas

SALT LAKE CITY — Two things became clear from Real Salt Lake’s most recent trip to Texas to face FC Dallas.

The first is that Rubio Rubin can still score bangers.

The second is that Damir Kreilach still has a clutch gene.

Rubin scored another golazo for the visitors, Kreilach added another one late, and Real Salt Lake earned a road draw with FC Dallas, 2-2, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The loss marks the third straight draw for Real Salt Lake (2-1-2) against FC Dallas, and third consecutive match without a win following a 2-0 start. But Saturday’s match will feel more like a point earned than two lost as RSL returns home for two more matches.

“I think, obviously, we had chances to score a couple more; but at the same time, we understand that it’s early in the season and we’re trying to understand each other five games in,” Rubin said. “We’re just trying to make the most out of every game, even if it’s a point on the road.

“We were down 2-1, and were able to get another one. We just have to build from here, and continue to work.”

Ryan Hollingshead scored what looked like the match-winner in the 84th minute for FC Dallas (2-2-2), and Franco Lara added a goal for FC Dallas.

But Kreilach notched his second goal of the season in the 86th minute, just moments after Hollingshead’s go-ahead strike from Paxton Pomykal took a deflection for a goal, saving a point for the visitors.

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The Croatian international headed home a ball from Aaron Herrera in the center of the box just moments after the restart, and Real Salt Lake converted a disappointing loss into a feel-good road draw in a few moments.

If Rubin is working his way into becoming RSL’s star striker, whose six goals accounted for is more than four MLS teams have scored, then Kreilach proved he is still the club’s talisman.

“He’s a warrior, a machine. He doesn’t back down from any challenge,” RSL coach Freddy Juarez said of his European vice-captain. “He has a presence in the box, and it’s like he has a magnet to the ball. When you get that good of a ball, you have to put it away. And he did. It was a great goal from Damir, and that’s what he brings to the team.”

Unlike last week’s scoreless home draw with Nashville SC or the late 2-1 home loss to the San Jose Earthquakes a week prior, Saturday’s match should feel more like a point gained for Real Salt Lake — for a variety of reasons. At least, it did to the players — even for goalkeeper David Ochoa, who conceded two goals but made eight saves and faced 29 shots.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game versus Dallas away,” Ochoa said. “Every away game is tough. I think we could’ve played a little better, and even got the win — but we got unfortunate on a couple of rebounds.

“But we come out positive. A point away is not easy. We come out with our heads high.”

Ochoa was one positive from the match, despite the two goals-against (more on that in a moment). The first, though, was Rubin.

The 25-year-old striker from Beaverton, Oregon, gave RSL the early advantage in the 20th minute, turning to convert a pass from Nick Besler inside the far post for his fourth goal in five starts with his first MLS club.

But the lead didn’t hold for long. Marcelo Silva conceded a penalty after being called for a foul inside the 18-yard box against Jader Obrian in the 42nd minute.

Jara sent Ochoa the wrong way from the spot to equalize in the 43rd minute for FC Dallas, pushing the ball inside the bottom right corner and past the rising U.S. international en route to the 1-1 halftime draw.

Beyond the penalty goal, Ochoa stood on his head with five saves to keep Dallas out of the net in the first half. The 20-year-old goalkeeper faced 18 shots in the first 45 minutes, including seven on goal as FC Dallas maintained 68% of possession and completed 85% of its passes.

“Great game from Ochoa, excellent performance,” Juarez said. “More important from me, I thought his head was up. He didn’t seem down in moments, like he was panicking.

“He let the defenders know he was here to back them up. The goals weren’t his fault … but I thought it was a solid game from Ochoa. We don’t expect him to create 10 or so saves every game. But we expect goalkeepers to keep us in a match. You’re going to get shot at every game, and if he comes up to save them, that’s what we need.”

The performance wasn’t perfect — Ochoa will be the first to admit that.

But in what is likely his last match with the club where he also played during his youth academy days before reporting to U.S. men’s national team training camp, Ochoa showed more promise and reasons why the RSL coaching office has put him in the position of succeeding former club legend Nick Rimando just a year after Rimando’s retirement.

Hopefully he won’t have to make eight saves after he returns from his overseas developmental trip, or deflect a half-dozen others, or face 29 shots.

But if he does, he knows what it’s like — and can handle it.

“It’s not what we want, to be honest,” Ochoa said. “The last thing we want is for me to be making all those saves. But sometimes the game of soccer doesn’t give you what you want. I’ve just got to be locked in for the full 90.

“It’s whatever. We don’t want it, but it’s fine. I’ll take it.”

Real Salt Lake returns home next Saturday, May 29 to face Minnesota United FC. Kickoff at a reduced-capacity Rio Tinto Stadium where masks are not required is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MT on KMYU for the first of four home matches in a five-game span.

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