A first glimpse of two forwards, lost duels, and did RSL commit a handball?


Real Salt Lake lost their first game after either drawing or winning their previous four.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) performs a shot on goal in MLS action between Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, the Saturday 29 May 2021.

Here are the observations of Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders by screenwriter Alex Vejar.

1. Handball or not handball?

RSL lost the game on a penalty shot following Anderson Julio’s call for a handball in the 86th minute of the game. Below is a video of the footage for reference.

The ball definitely hits Julio’s left arm. The problem with RSL players was that he first came out of his chest before he reached his arm. Albert Rusnák could be seen on the show arguing on this point, and this was reflected in coach Freddy Juarez’s comments after the game, although he declined to give a final opinion until he watch the movie of the sequence.

“A lot of people texted me saying it wasn’t a penalty, that he had hit him twice in the body before he hit his arm,” Juarez said. “I think with the new rule it’s not a penalty. It is not a handball.

Here is how the FIFA FIFA Laws of the Game update 2021-22 defines a handball offense, other than the obvious. If a player “touches the ball with his hand or his arm while his body has grown abnormally”, it is a handball.

In addition, “a player is considered to have abnormally enlarged his body when the position of his hand / arm is not a consequence or is not justified by the movement of the player’s body for that specific situation. By having his hand / arm in such a position, the player takes the risk of his hand / arm being hit by the ball and being penalized.

By this definition, it looks like Julio’s left arm rises as the ball heads towards him after bouncing off Raúl Ruidíaz. It is true that the ball appears to hit his chest / shoulder before it hits his arm, but maybe what the refs saw was a situation where Julio’s arm didn’t need to be in that position.

It’s a tough and unlucky call for Real Salt Lake. But in this case, it looks like it was the right one.

2. First look at two forwards

New RSL forward Bobby Wood made his club and Major League Soccer debut against the Sounders. When the starting lineup came out, Wood was on the bench, indicating there was at least a chance he would appear.

But when Juarez pulled the trigger in the 67th minute, he didn’t substitute for Wood for compatriot Rubio Rubin. Instead, he knocked out midfielder Nick Besler and went for a two-attacking system. When this happened, the show’s advertisers immediately began trying to find out when RSL last had two forwards play in the same game. It’s been so long.

“It was good to be by his side,” said Rubin.

Wood didn’t play in last Saturday’s game, but he’s been training with the team for about two weeks. Rubin said that during this time he was talking to Wood and the two were trying to “get along” in terms of gameplay.

Juarez said he liked what he saw of Wood, first pointing out how his large body made it difficult for Seattle center-backs to jump on him. He also liked the way Wood showed leadership and a desire to get into the box when the ball was being played off.

It remains to be seen how Wood will fit into the roster once he’s fit enough to play a full 90 minutes. Saturday could have been an experience for Juarez to see how playing two forwards can go forward.

3. Watch the duels

RSL this season has made the competition and sometimes the victory of Juarez’s favorite statistic: duels. It is when a player wins a ball when two players have a 50-50 chance of getting it.

But against the Sounders on Saturday, RSL lost the battle of the duels 51-38. It was the biggest defeat margin for Salt Lake in that stat in all eight games this season.

RSL duels won against all opponents this season

• Minnesota 56, RSL 48

• Sporting KC 41, RSL 35

• San José 44, RSL 39

• Nashville 40, RSL 38

• FC Dallas 53, RSL 49

• Minnesota 49, RSL 38

• Vancouver 45, RSL 44

• Seattle 51, RSL 38

Juarez loves stats because, he said, it tells him a lot about his team’s efforts on any given night. Winning the battle of duels, RSL has a very good chance of coming away with the result.

But that was not the case against the Sounders. Rubin said Seattle wins a lot of those situations early in the game, when RSL looked in tatters and would concede a goal much sooner than he actually did.

“I don’t know what it was today, but we were obviously a step behind,” said Rubin.

RSL has another home game on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo. It’s a short turnaround and the team will want to redeem themselves after a loss. Head-to-head matches will be a stat to watch in this game to see if RSL is tired and still a little behind.

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