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Real Salt Lake 1-3 Atlanta United recap: The long, strange trip has a happy ending

It was an ugly last portion of the match for Atlanta, but it ends with three points.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Not many teams go into Rio Tinto Stadium and win. Atlanta United very nearly became one of many to depart Sandy with less than three points, but they did enough to end their four-game away stretch with a victory as they found themselves on the good end of a 3-1 scoreline. Atlanta ends the four-game trip away from Bobby Dodd with a win, two draws and a loss.

We hadn’t seen an early goal for Atlanta in recent games, but they broke through in the opening stages this evening. In the ninth minute, Miguel Almiron’s initial shot was stopped by Nick Rimando, but it found the foot of Tito Villalba - who knocked in a short rebound after his first attempt was turned aside.

RSL didn’t get a great chance until a 33rd minute corner turned out to be a little nervy but was dealt with by Alec Kann in the end. They got another crack in the 39th after Kyle Beckerman won a free kick, but Albert Rusnak’s attempt from distance wasn’t far off but ultimately went wide. Things started to tip in RSL’s favor as the half progressed as a few sloppy moments for Atlanta put them on the back heel.

But United helped themselves to a dream start coming out of the locker room. Rimando’s pass from the box to his man ahead was stolen nicely by Almiron. The Paraguyan then found Yamil Asad in the box with a nifty pass, catching Rimando well out of net and leading to a wide-open finish for Asad not even a minute into the 2nd.

The Five Stripes had a few more chances to go up 3-0 - namely a big strike from distance about a minute later and a near miss by Asad in the 58th - but it would be RSL getting on the board in the 69th minute as Rusnak found himself on the other end of a pretty buildup to make it a 2-1 contest. The nerves for Atlanta increased later as RSL were awarded a free kick in the 76th minute, but Joao Plata’s attempt sailed wide to the left.

It was a rough and tumble last few minutes as RSL were looking for the equalizing goal and had much of the possession in the latter stages of the second half, thanks to a bit of sloppy play by Atlanta. But after RSL were caught behind a break toward the end of the sixth minute of stoppage time, Julian Gressel hit fellow late-game sub Brandon Vazquez with a long pass, and Vazquez calmly drew backup keeper Matt Van Oekel off his line and converted for his first career goal.

Tonight won’t go down in the books as a work of art by any stretch of the imagination. And Atlanta will look back and be disappointed that they didn’t come away with at least eight points on this trip. But they’ll be happy to head back home having come away with three at RSL and with what should be an amped up group of supporters waiting for them at BDS next Sunday when DC United come to town.