Kristin Nichols, Deseret Morning News
For Real Salt Lake, nothing's really changed.
It doesn't really matter that it beat English Premiere League club Everton 2-0 in Saturday's international friendly at Rice-Eccles Stadium. RSL still owns the worst record in Major League Soccer and faces a massive uphill battle in the second half of the season, which gets under way next weekend.
With that said, there's nothing RSL can do to change the past, and the players know it, especially newcomers like Kyle Beckerman and Nate Sturgis, who made their debuts against the EPL side. What the players can do is take steps toward remedying the future, and that's why Saturday's result isn't meaningless, but rather encouraging going forward.
"I think it has to be a confidence-booster for the guys, to play against a Premiership team to be victorious and really outplay them all night," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "We can't discount that, but we also know it wasn't perfect."
Playing against a team that in fairness is still in preseason mode with three more weeks until the Premier League season kicks off, RSL played like a team in midseason form as it controlled the run of play for long stretches, creating far more scoring opportunities.
Unlike numerous league matches this year, however, Real didn't squander those chances when they presented themselves.
In the 28th minute when Carey Talley was left unmarked on a corner kick, he capitalized by crashing into the box and heading home the Alecko Eskandarian cross to make it 1-0. A minute later, Robbie Findley capitalized on his moment by touching the ball around Everton keeper Tim Howard on a breakaway and then casually knocking it into the empty net to make the scoreline 2-0.
"I think we did awesome the first half," said midfielder Andy Williams, who delivered the assist that set up Findley's goal. "The movement was great, the midfield were clicking, Robbie and Alecko were making the runs and it looked good today."
The midfield, a weakness for Real Salt Lake most of the year, was actually a strength Saturday. With Beckerman and Sturgis joining Talley and Williams in the middle of the park, the quartet did an outstanding job maintaining possession where other RSL teams might've coughed it up easily.
"Beckerman was huge for us. He runs around, touches the ball and gives us time to get open," said Real keeper Nick Rimando. "Midfield was the key."
With another exhibition match Tuesday, and then a league match next Saturday, no one played more than 61 minutes as Kreis tried to keep his players fresh through the busy week. Even in the final 30 minutes, with primarily reserve players on the pitch, Real was still fighting to preserve the clean sheet.
Everton was unlucky not to score twice in the final 15 minutes. In the 75th minute, Jack Stewart appeared to get away with a foul in the box on Victor Anichebe. Ten minutes later, James Beattie narrowly missed latching onto a cross from Anderson de Silva.
When it was all said and done, Eskandarian said I told you so.
"I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so," said Eskandarian. "Just because they make more money than us and get more exposure than us doesn't mean they're better soccer plays. We came out together as a team."Duplicating that effort against Boca Juniors on Tuesday would be even more impressive.
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