SANDY — Real Salt Lake has grown so accustomed to winning over the past year and a half, midfielder Ned Grabavoy said the players might have started to take it for granted.
"Sometimes you kind of forget about some of the little things that go into it. You kind of forget that three points are not an easy thing to get week in and week out," said Grabavoy.
Saturday night, things were back to business as usual at Rio Tinto Stadium.
A week after seeing its two-year home unbeaten streak come to a surprising end, Real Salt Lake was back to its old dominant self at home with a 2-0 victory over the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps.
With seven regulars unavailable for selection because of injuries, suspensions and national team call-ups, RSL ran circles around Vancouver most of the night outshooting the Whitecaps a staggering 24-6.
Despite the easy victory Jason Kreis said there's plenty of work ahead for RSL, but admitted the performance was a step in the right direction.
"Pleased with the competitive spirit from the guys from minute 1 to minute 90 tonight. We did a lot of positive things tonight," he said.
Kreis was particularly pleased with his players' willingness to be a little more creative on the attack, and then their willingness to fight for balls all over the field.
"We have to work that hard if we want to win games. If we don't work that hard we want win games, and if we do work that hard we'll win most of them," said Kreis.
That renewed spirit was there from the opening minute as the players took the field with a bad taste still in their mouths from last weekend's loss to Seattle.
Seattle was coming off a midweek game last week, but RSL was reluctant to press the Sounders early. It didn't make that mistake against Vancouver, which was also coming off a midweek game earlier this week.
"We really wanted to put a lot of pressure on them in the first 15 and see if we could get a goal. We feel if we can put a lot of pressure in the first 15 eventually in the second half it will hurt them a bit and they'll get winded," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
Jean Alexandre got things started in the 32nd minute scoring his first career MLS goal in just his second start at striker. After receiving a fantastic ball from Beckerman at the top of the top, the nimble Alexandre used a fancy step-over to free himself from defender Mouloud Akloul before curling a shot around keeper Joe Cannon.
Asked how he did it, Alexandre joked, "only God knows."
"That was a world class pass, that took me by surprise. It took everybody by surprise cause that pass was very difficult to make," he said.
The goal was RSL's first in the opening 45 minutes of a match since April 9, and was instrumental in halting a three-game winless skid.
RSL didn't let up in the second half, dominating throughout and finally doubling its advantage in the 79th minute as Fabian Espindola buried a breakaway on a nice through ball from Alexandre.
The game had become very open by that point with Vancouver desperately pushing for the equalizer, but the build-up to the second goal was exactly what Kreis was hoping for from his players.
"Good to see more players looking to turn the ball, look upfield, play upfield and run upfield, so I was pleased with that," said Kreis.
Nick Rimando helped preserve the shutout victory — the first since Javier Morales' injury — with a pair of acrobatic saves in the final 10 minutes.
Real Salt Lake improved to 6-2-2 with the win, and closed the gap on Los Angeles every so slightly at the top of the Western Conference as the Galaxy tied D.C. United on Friday night.
The schedule is about to get much tougher for RSL next week with away games at Columbus on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Saturday.
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