Real Salt Lake found its groove again off goals by Fabian Espindola and Jean Alexandre Saturday night against a struggling Vancouver Whitecaps team trying to make its way in MLS. They were just what the doctor ordered for the Claret and Cobalt.
Nick Rimando: He showed why he's the top keeper in MLS this season in the 23rd minute with an athletic jab save to keep a nasty Vancouver corner from leaking into goal or finding one of three Vancouver players that surrounded him. His authoritative punch out in the 30th minute was even better. Grade: A
Tony Beltran: Tony got dangerous. His 33rd minute move into the box was exactly what Jason Kreis has been asking for, someone interested in taking it to the defense. Too bad RSL squandered the earned corner. And too bad Tony followed up with a poorly timed stab at the ball that gave Vancouver its best scoring chance off a free kick in the 43rd minute that was the result of a Chris Schuler foul while trying to make up for Beltran's gaff. Beltran made up for the mistake with solid play the rest of the game. Grade: B-
Chris Schuler: Real Salt Lake missed Robbie Russell more than Jamison Olave. Without Russell, they struggled to get the ball out of the backfield into attacking position most of the first half. Once they finally found their way out of the backfield, Chris Schuler did a more than adequate job protecting the RSL goal as he was caught on a handful of 1 vs 1 tilts that he won with skill beyond his years. Grade: B
Nat Borchers: Most nights it can be hard to find too many deficiencies in Nat Borchers' game but Saturday night he showed a couple chinks in the armor. It might have been the sub-par competition dragging him down to its level, might have been his missing partner in crime or it might have just been one of those nights, but Nat's passing and positioning were clearly off from his usual steady performance. Grade: B
Chris Wingert: Chris Wingert made the sting of missing Russell and Olave less painful with a little bit of everything Saturday night, tracking back nicely to smother a number of dangerous balls, pushing forward for some threatening crosses and even taking a beautiful crack at goal from 25 yards in the 18th minute that sailed just wide left. Grade: A-
Ned Grabavoy: Ned played Beckerman-like defense but it was his offense that shone best Saturday night. He was elusive and active enough to be in the right place at the right time more than once. Like when he nearly scored off a poorly cleared ball in the 56th minute that made for Joe Cannon's best save of the night. He seems to be finding his groove in relief of Javier Morales. Grade: A-
Kyle Beckerman: Kyle was the anchor in the midfield once again with unsung workmanship on and off the ball. He was more active than usual on the offensive end and came close to scoring in the 16th minute but knocked a goal front gift just over the crossbar. Grade: A-
Collen Warner: He clearly has the skill but lacks the patience to make the necessary impact in the midfield. Silly mistakes like his poor pass back in the 26th minute and his knuckle headed yellow in the 30th made it clear he had to go before he did any lasting damage. Why did it take Jason Kreis another 55 minutes to make the switch? Grade: C
Nelson Gonzalez: While his defense left something to be desired, Nelson Gonzalez is deadly on free kicks, something Real misses terribly without Javier Morales. His beauty in the 20th minute nearly found a receptive mark in Chris Schuler who was wide open in front of the goal but couldn't direct the ball into the goal. It left most of the crowd scratching their heads when he was subbed out instead of Collen Warner in the 66th minute. Grade: B+
Fabian Espindola: Fabian Espindola shook the monkey from his back in the 79th minute with his second goal of the season on a superbly touched and placed breakaway goal. That was the first of what seemed like a half dozen earlier opportunities with signature moves like the one to break down the Vancouver D and get off a shot on goal in the 39th minute that was a near mirror image of the one Alexandre scored on. Too bad Joe Cannon learned his lesson the first time. His 47th minute breakaway at midfield looked like it might spell success in the form of an assist to either the streaking Nelson Gonzalez or Collen Warner but his touch into the middle left much to be desired. He had chances again in the 70th and 73rd before finally being rewarded. Man of the Match. Grade: A
Jean Alexandre: It's about time! Real found a scorer and it wasn't one of the usual suspects. Jean Alexandre used his powerful frame to muscle past the Vancouver defense and slide a perfectly placed shot past Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon for Real's first half goal. He showed up again in front of the goal in the 73rd and 76th minutes but failed to show any further finishing quality. Grade: B+3 comments on this story
Andy Williams: Andy Williams was terrific off the bench with a shot on goal, a number of solid corners and unselfish defense in the midfield. Jason Kreis might just have found a powerful formula in bringing Williams off the bench. Grade: A-
Luis Gil: Though he was brought in late in the game, Luis Gil made an immediate impact with young legs and uncanny ball control against Vancouver's tired defense. He just might have convinced Mr. Kreis that more playing time is in order. Grade: A-
Artur Aghasyan: Subbing in at the 86th minute for Collen Warner, Artur Aghasyan made his Real debut. He showed poise on the two occasions where he touched the ball, but had too little time to show more than that. Grade: Incomplete
Chris Higbee is the Product Director for DeseretNews.com. He can be found @chigbee on Twitter.