ORLANDO (ABC4 Sports) – Zac MacMath made three saves for his second straight clean sheet, as Real Salt Lake played Minnesota United to a scoreless draw Friday night at the MLS is Back Tournament.
RSL and Minnesota both have four points with one game left in Group D, but Real Salt Lake is technically in first place based on goal differential.
“It was a hard-fought match by both teams,” RSL head coach Freddy Juarez said. “The effort was tremendous by the guys, we just needed to create a little bit more chances for goal. It was two very good defensive teams that know how to defend in the box and sacrifice and put their bodies on the line. It was just going to take a little bit extra.”
Neither team could generate much offense in the hot, humid night. RSL managed just two shots on frame, while Minnesota put three shots on goal.
Minnesota came into the match as the only unbeaten, untied team in MLS, but Real’s defense was stifling.
“The whole team and Freddy has emphasized playing just playing simple and not giving the ball away easily to the other team,” MacMath said. “I think we’ve done that really well over the last two games and hopefully it’s something we can continue to build on throughout this tournament. The guys in front of me were outstanding again, not just in the build-up, but defending shots and crosses as well making it really hard for the Minnesota forwards to score.”
The best chance for either team came in the closing seconds of stoppage time of the first half, when Minnesota’s Robin Lod put his attempt off the near post. The rebound caromed out to Ethan Finlay, whose diving header was saved by MacMath.
Things heated up five minutes into the second half as RSL’s Pablo Ruiz pressed Tyler Miller into a diving save with a long-distance attempt. Lod was then denied again by MacMath, who dove to get a hand on his low shot.
Albert Rusnak, who scored in a goal in Real Salt Lake’s tournament-opening 2-0 victory over Colorado, left the game in the first half with an apparent hip injury.
“You never expect that to happen,” Juarez said about Rusnak’s injury. “It was unfortunate because when that happens so quick, a lot of times the player doesn’t get the proper chance to warm up. I don’t know too much about Albert and I haven’t discussed that with our medical staff. After this I’ll go and see how he is doing.”
Real Salt Lake is now 1-0-3 overall on the season, and will wrap up group play Wednesday morning against Sporting Kansas City at 7:00 a.m. mountain time. A win or draw will clinch a spot in the knockout round.