Wilmington at Real Salt Lake: Report card

By Chris Higbee

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, June 28 2011 11:43 p.m. MDT

SANDY — Real Salt Lake came on like Jekyll and Hyde Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. The majority of the first half they looked as if they were on autopilot, moving slowly in the midfield and without precision everywhere else, including on numerous easy chances inside the box that went unconverted. Tony Beltran changed the color of the game in the 41st minute with a goal that breathed new life into the team and brought out the dominance everyone expected from one of MLS's best, which showed in its 18-6 and 7-3 ratio of shots on goal.

Kyle Reynish was never really challenged from close but saved a number of squirrelly long shots, including a beautiful one-on-one shot from 18 yards out on his left flank in the 44th minute to keep the sheet clean. GRADE: A

Tony Beltran showed why he must start for Claret and Cobalt. With tremendous pace and a work rate unmatched by either team, he dominated the entire right line. He was a living highlight reel with unexpected moves like the beautiful juke in the 21st minute that freed him to make a perfect cross into the box, which was nearly redirected into goal by Jean Alexandre. But Tony's best moment came in the 41st minute. The diminutive winger shifted Real's game into a new gear with a pinpoint perfect shot to the right of Wilmington goalie Kyle Polak, who had the left post covered -- or so it seemed until Tony found a few inches through which to slot the ball and find the back of the net. MAN OF THE MATCH. GRADE: A

Rauwshan McKenzie showed his lack of experience with a couple of boneheaded mistakes like the misstep that nearly led to an early Wilmington goal in the 10th minute. He has all the tools with strength and speed but clearly needs playing time to hone them. GRADE: C+

Nat Borchers seemed out of sorts without his wingman Jamison Olave, but his leadership kept Wilmington from exploiting Rauwshan McKenzie's inexperience or Chris Schuler's discomfort in a new position. Decision-making, speed and accuracy could have been better throughout the game but especially in the first half. GRADE: B+

Chris Schuler seemed uncomfortable playing his first MLS game ever at left fullback. At best his game was adequate but lacked the speed and accuracy usually seen at that position for Real. GRADE: C+

Andy Williams did just enough and no more for the majority of the game. It's not what we've come to expect from Andy. While he usually appears to expend less energy while actually doing more, Tuesday night he seemed to get pretty much what he put in until the final 15 minutes of the game where he had a couple of power blasts from outside the 18 to keep the Wilmington goalie honest. GRADE: B

Kyle Beckerman has found a groove from which he cannot be dislodged, and it's a good one. He was instrumental in most of Real's chances, including assisting Jean Alexandre in his 44th minute assist. He was pulled in the 63rd minute in favor of Ned Grabavoy to keep him fresh for Real's matchup with the New England Revolution July 4. GRADE: A-

Collen Warner seems to be coming into his own at the offensive midfield position chasing down balls, taking part in numerous one-touch exchanges to keep possession and finding a couple opportunities to play some nice balls into the box. But without a shot on goal, it's still clear he needs to take more initiative to be the impact player coach Jason Kreis expects him to be. GRADE: B

Will Johnson showed less pace and endurance than normal. Perhaps he was pacing himself, heretofore unknown of the young Canadian, but Real missed his creativity and spark for much of the game. His breakaway sprint in the 66th minute and near goals in the 77th and 88th minutes did bring smiles to some faces and reminded the 7,620 RSL fans in attendance why he's one of their favorites. GRADE: B+

Jean Alexandre was extremely dangerous Tuesday night. Overpowering the Wilmington back line with his strength and speed, he was simply no match for the USL pro team. In addition to providing the service for Tony Beltran's 41st minute goal, Jean was positioned perfectly for numerous chances himself and was rewarded in the 44th minute with a goal assisted by team captain Kyle Beckerman and nearly again off a crowd-pleasing rocket of a bicycle kick in the 78th minute. GRADE: A

Luis Gil showed flashes of true brilliance but never once finished. In the 12th minute he missed an open netter off a beautiful combination from Andy Williams to Will Johnson, who slotted it right in front of the goal for Gil. He had three other shots that should have been better and a number of assists that looked promising but fell flat in the end. No doubt Luis is the future of this franchise, but that future hasn't yet arrived. GRADE: B-

Ned Grabavoy was subbed in to relieve Kyle Beckerman in the 63rd minute and filled in fine. His work rate combined with some nifty passing kept the ball alive on more than one occasion and his blast from outside the 18-yard box in the 85th minute was nearly too much for Wilmington goalie Kyle Polak to handle. GRADE: B

Robbie Russell was never really challenged in the short minutes he played after being subbed in for Chris Schuler. Usually known for his midfield crosses, Robbie was most effective down the wing, even finding a chance to drop off a pass from Will Johnson right at the goalie only minutes after his substitution. GRADE: B+

Nelson Gonzalez couldn't have asked for a better time to come onto the field in place of Collen Warner. Wilmington was exhausted and Real had found its groove. Not known for his defense, Gonzalez didn't really have to play any. He surely didn't mind, as he was able to put his nifty footwork on showcase in the tight space around Wilmington's 18-yard box, creating numerous scoring chances that sadly went unfinished. GRADE: B+

Chris Higbee is the Product Director for DeseretNews.com. He can be found @chigbee on Twitter.

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