SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Despite a highlight-reel goal from 70 yards out by defender Aaron Herrera, a short-handed Real Salt Lake side fell 2-1 at home to Liga MX Champions Atlas FC in the final 2022 Leagues Cup Showcase contest of the year.
With the loss, RSL falls to an all-time 3-7-4 record against Mexican visitors, including both Leagues Cup losses (2019 vs. Tigres). Atlas FC was the 30th different foreign opponent from 16 countries to take on RSL in international competition, including Leagues Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and friendly exhibitions during the last 18 years.
Real Salt Lake started out on the front foot, nearly scoring in the eighth minute when midfielder Jasper Loffelsend hit a short, curling cross to Bode Hidalgo, who headed down a bouncing header that was tipped just over the crossbar by Atlas FC goalkeeper Jose Hernandez.
Just a few minutes later, RSL opened the scoring in stunning fashion, in the 17th minute, when Herrera, who had just one MLS goal under his belt, caught Hernandez off his line and hit a rocket from inside his own half, about 70 yards out, sailing it over the Atlas defense and into the back of the net.
RSL winger Justin Meram was shown a straight red card for a high kick going into the chest of an Atlas player in the 37th minute, leaving the Real shorthanded the rest of the match. Shortly thereafter, Atlas found the equalizer with midfielder Edgar Zaldivar scoring off an initial save from goalkeeper Tomas Gomez. The two sides entered the halftime break tied at 1-1.
In the second frame of play, Real Salt Lake and Atlas FC traded shots and possession but neither side was able to find a breakthrough until the 72nd minute when Lucas Rodriguez fired a shot into the top shelf to give Atlas the 2-1 lead. With RSL playing with 10 men, the Club was unable to find the equalizer, ending 2-1 in favor of the away side.
Real Salt Lake return to MLS regular-season action on Saturday, October 1 at 8:30 p.m. MT against LA Galaxy