Tucson, Ariz. • Center back Justen Glad sent a long ball arcing diagonally across the field to land at Sebastian Saucedo’s feet.
Saucedo crossed the ball to Brooks Lennon, who sprinted in from the left wing. But Lennon’s near-post shot was blocked by goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
Real Salt Lake’s first shot on goal in its 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes at the Kino Sports Complex on Wednesday came after a series of long balls over the top of San Jose’s back line — an atypical approach for RSL, but one that was the byproduct of a smart read on the game.
“We don’t practice long balls up the wings,” RSL coach Mike Petke said with a chuckle. “That’s exactly what it is, taking what the game will give you. Because of our movement, I felt, especially Kyle [Beckerman] and Luke [Mulholland] coming a bit higher and then dropping in, dragged a lot of their guys out and we were able to just recognize that there was space behind.”
RSL sent four long balls to its wingers in the first 20 minutes of the match. The team settled into playing the ball on the ground after that.
“I think our play on the ground going through the middle with Albert [Rusnák], Luke and Kyle specifically was very good today,” Petke said.
As in last Saturday’s match against the L.A. Galaxy, Petke gave each player on the field about 45 minutes of playing time. He said he plans to extend those minutes during the next preseason leg in Orlando.
Joao Plata sat out as a precautionary measure, giving Saucedo a chance to start on the right wing. Aaron Herrera and Adam Henley swapped groups, putting Herrera in the starting lineup on a back line comprising three RSL Academy products — Herrera, Glad and Danilo Acosta.
The starters from both teams walked off the field at halftime in a scoreless draw. RSL striker Alfredo Oruño opened scoring in the 55th minute, netting his first RSL preseason goal, assisted by second-round draft pick Ricky Lopez-Espin.
The Earthquakes retaliated on a cross to knot the match at 1-1 on Quincy Amarikwa’s finish five minutes later.
“Everybody — not just us, the coaching staff, but the players — felt that this was a step up from the L.A. game,” Petke said, “and I thought the L.A. game we did a lot of great things.”