As we reach the halfway point of the 2022 season (17 matches), how has Real Salt Lake performed so far? Here’s a look at the high and lows from the first half of the season.
Highlight: Exceeding expectations
Let’s be honest, RSL’s run to last season’s Western Conference final was surprising, to say the least.
And then the club lost Albert Rusnak, Anderson Julio, and a number of other players in the offseason. They didn’t make any big signings before the season kicked off.
It seemed like it could be a long, uninspiring season for Real.
Instead, the team is 8-5-4 overall (wins-draws-losses) which is good enough for third place in the Western Conference and six points above the playoff line. A great start that hopefully continues into the second half of the season, as well as the playoffs.
Low: Struggles In Front Of The Goal
Despite the overall positive results, RSL has struggled to convert chances in front of goal.
Losing Rusnak in the offseason and an injury to Damir Kreilach hasn’t helped, nor has the fact that the returns of Savarino and Anderson Julio happened once the season had already started.
So far this season, Real has scored just 20 goals in 17 games, tied for the lowest of all the league’s playoff teams.
The highest goal tally on the team is just three. Newcomer Sergio Cordova, Bobby Wood (now injured), and defender Justen Glad are tied for the team lead.
If a defender is your leading goal scorer, you know there are issues. Luckily there’s a second half of the season to figure it out.
Highlight: Unbeaten at home
So far this season RSL has played eight league matches at Rio Tinto Stadium, recording six wins and two draws, taking a possible 20 out of 24 points.
Even better, RSL has played the eight home matches in front of sellout crowds each time, the longest consecutive sellout streak in team history.
On home turf, RSL has picked up wins against Seattle, Nashville, the LA Galaxy, Austin, Houston, and San Jose while drawing versus Toronto and Columbus.
Low: U.S. Open Cup
The return of the U.S Open Cup after a two-season hiatus seemed like a good chance for RSL to make a run at silverware under a new ownership group.
In what was perceived to be an easy third-round draw, Real was pitted against expansion side Northern Colorado Hailstorm of third-tier USL League One at home.
Instead, RSL played one of its worst games of the season, suffering a 1-0 defeat. Northern Colorado was eliminated in the next round.
A good chance to make a run for a trophy lost.
Highlight: New signings
The biggest acquisition of the season is undoubtedly the return of Jefferson Savarino.
After playing three years in Brazil and winning six trophies, Savarino returned to RSL and made his season debut on May 28 against Houston. In his third match, he scored a goal versus San Jose.
It is very exciting to see “Sava” back playing for Real and hopefully, his title-winning ways in Brazil can carry over to the Salt Lake Valley.
Low: The David Ochoa situation
For some reason, young star goalkeeper David Ochoa isn’t playing, and no one will tell us why.
At first he was injured, then healthy (even appearing in the Open Cup match), then injured again.
I asked Pablo for an injury update on David Ochoa –
“He’s been dealing with a little bit of a finger injury. His quad’s feeling better. He’s been in and out of training throughout the week. We’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and go from there.”
Finger injury is news to me#RSL
— Alex Mower (@alexmower) April 17, 2022
We were told that he was away for personal reasons. Then there were rumors that bigger European clubs and some Mexican ones were trying to make a deal with him.
Mastroeni on GK David Ochoa's (excused) absence:
"David's had some stuff that he's been dealing with. The most important thing for me is that any player has to be 100% emotionally, psychologically, physically to contribute. David's making good strides."
— Salt City FC (@saltcityfc) May 15, 2022
This article from @FOXDeportes says several European and Mexican clubs have been in touch with David Ochoa’s agent, mainly Atlético Madrid, Fulham, Bournemouth, West Ham, KV Kortrijk, Cádiz, Real Sociedad, Toluca and Querétaro.
Ochoa’s contract with #RSL is up after this season. https://t.co/l1Tttif63k
— Caleb Turner (@calebturner23) May 15, 2022
Then during the last international break, Ochoa was called into the Mexico National Team camp. He didn’t play, but the fact he was brought in when he hasn’t seen the field for RSL seemed odd.
So what’s going on? No one seems to know. It would be great for Ochoa to get back on the field for RSL, but kudos to Zach MacMath for putting in an All-Star caliber performance in his absence.
Overall, Real Salt Lake has gotten off to a good start and has had a lot of highlights throughout the first half of the campaign. Here’s to hoping for an even better second half and a run in the MLS Cup playoffs.
Kicking off the second half of the 2022 season, RSL faces off against Minnesota United on the road. The match is scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. MT on Sunday, July 3, and can be seen on KMYU and the KSL TV app.