Real Salt Lake showed much improved form Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in a 3-0 drubbing of the New York Red Bulls. It could have been the surprisingly milquetoast effort from New York that made it appear so, or it could have been a real life homegrown thing, but dare the fans hope Real has found their confidence? Perhaps. And with Real entering the weakest part of their schedule, they might even believe it has room to grow.
Nick Rimando finally saw a result to equal the quality of his play Saturday night. He was called on a couple of times to save some pretty lousy shots from New York but most importantly his distribution was rock solid and his foot play under pressure on pass-backs was excellent, dealing both an on-rushing Henry and Agudelo more than once to win space enough to control the ball and keep it in play. Grade: A-
Robbie Russell is the master trapper. He must have dropped half a dozen 45-yard switches right at his feet or directly in front of him on the run. What he did with the ball after that was no less impressive, floating ball after ball right into the mixer before the mouth of the goal. He was on his game on defense too as New York sent Henry wide to challenge him on a number of occasions but he kept the big Frenchman from breaking through on all but one dangerous attempt. Grade: B+
Nat Borchers earned his second goal of the year in the 13th minute with a wide open rocket header to put Real up early and snap RSL's scoreless streak at 200 minutes even. His positioning and pace were top notch as well thanks to the stellar defense in the midfield that kept New York from earning many transition scoring opportunities. Grade: A
Chris Schuler was much more comfortable on the ball under pressure than we've seen of late. He even stood up superstar Thierry Henry on more than one occasion. His off-the-ball positioning and pressure was much improved as well and he seemed to rule the air on goal kicks, winning almost everything that came his way at midfield. He's worked hard in training to iron out some of the kinks that were apparent against Columbus at home last week and it was clearly evident Saturday night. Grade: B+
Chris Wingert was steady Saturday night. Thank goodness he's back to his usually steady form. He was rarely called on to break forward but when he did he was very dangerous creating two very good opportunities in the second half. His defensive marking was superb and he showed uncommon speed to keep New York from breaking through the right flank on the handful of occasions where they found some space in the final third of the field while in transition. Grade: B+
Andy Williams is at his best when relaxed and he was one cool cucumber Saturday night. His bending three-toe, volleyed shot on goal in the 12th minute was a thing of beauty and ended up being the play that won the corner to give Borchers his goal in the 13th minute and his sneaky chip shot in the 55th minute, that almost caught Red Bull sub Bouna Coundoul sleeping in his goal, was vintage Williams. Grade: A
Kyle Beckerman earned his 6th and 7th assists of the season. The first came in the 13th minute when he played a beautiful bending ball from the corner flag right on to Borchers uncovered head at the near post. The second came in the 44th minute when he cut off a Chris Albright clearance with a hustle play and gave it to Luis Gil to bury from 25 yards out. Beckerman's play has been instrumental in keeping Real from collapsing under the pressure of injuries and lackluster play lately. Saturday night was his reward for all the frustration. Man of the Match. Grade: A
Luis Gil was nothing less than a revelation Saturday night, earning his first-ever MLS goal only seconds before the first-half whistle. And it was a beauty, rocketing off his right foot from about 25 yards out into the right corner. His effort marshaling the front half of the midfield was equal to that of Beckerman in the back half and it had a massive impact. He led a handful of Morales-esque tight passing barrages in front of the goal but more than that, he took shots, an area where Grabavoy has been inconsistent in his time replacing Javier Morales. It's clear Gil is more comfortable as the Offensive Midfielder than at Forward where he's seen some playing time this year. Grade: A
Will Johnson definitely had his motor running at Rio Tinto Saturday night. Nice to see him back in form after an uncharacteristically lackluster game against Sporting KC last Wednesday. He was a defensive nightmare and seemed particularly potent on secondary defensive runs against the Red Bull forwards. His scrappy tackle on Henry earned him a yellow card in the 85th minute. Grade: A-
Alvaro Saborio might have had his best game Saturday night despite only one shot on goal. His play with his back to the goal was very strong and Jason Kreis' talk with Saborio a week ago must have done some good, because the big Costa Rican played uncommonly good defense, even chasing down some loose balls and charging hard on 50/50s. But it was his ice-in-the-blood PK goal in the 76th minute that personified Saborio's night. Cool. Grade: A
Fabian Espindola once again played with the poise and restraint he's discovered this season but had lost the last couple of games. And his footwork and pace were brilliant. One run midway through the second half was particularly entertaining to watch as he flicked the ball with his heel over his head on a dead run and nearly broke away for a solo shot on goal. Grade: A-
Collen Warner came on in the 67th minute to play mostly a defensive role in place of Gil. He didn't disappoint, clogging the midfield with effort runs and occasionally finding his forwards to keep the Red Bull defense on their heels. Grade: B+
Arturo Alvarez's only real opportunity to stand out in his brief appearance in substitution for Williams came in the 88th minute on a 2-on-1 breakaway where instead of passing it to a wide open Saborio he tried a tight left post shot that sailed over the goal. That's simply not good enough from a player Kreis is expecting to make a major contribution this season. Grade: B-
Jean Alexandre came on in the 86th minute basically to keep Johnson from earning a red card after having a sketchy yellow card pulled on him in the 85th minute for a tackle against Henry. He didn't play enough to earn a grade. Grade: Incomplete
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