FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake: Report card

By Chris Higbee

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, July 9 2011 11:46 p.m. MDT

SANDY — Dallas was clearly playing for a draw at Rio Tinto Saturday night by packing the midfield with a 4-5-1, but Real was ready for it, using pace and youth to attack Dallas’ flanks in a convincing 2-0 win. Tony Beltran and Luis Gil were particularly difficult for the Toros to handle, and Fabian Espindola was simply too much for the exhausted Dallas defenders to mark when he entered the game in the 70th minute.

Nick Rimando started off shaky with a slow decision on a back pass that nearly cost Real a goal. He made up for it with his trademark accurate distribution, two terrace saves and a couple of blue-collar saves to keep a clean sheet and give Real the win. Rimando is surely taking Chris Wingert to lunch for saving his bacon in the 81st minute. Grade: B

Chris Wingert played one of his strongest games of the season Saturday night. He wasn't flashy, but he didn't have to be. He just had to stay in front of two of Dallas' speediest offensive threats and he never missed a mark, including the 81st-minute save when he blocked Dallas forward Jackson Goncalves’ open netter. He was everything fortress Real embodied Saturday night. Man of the Match. Grade: A

Chris Schuler was impressive at the left-center back position in place of Nat Borchers, who was shown a red card in Real's July 4 match up with New England. His aggressiveness wore Dallas' Marvin Chavez down so that by the end of the first half he was not the threat he usually is. But it was Schuler’s leadership on the back line that made the biggest difference. Grade: B+

Jamison Olave was a brute. He established his presence early in the first half when Goncalves tried to go through the big Colombian at full speed just outside the 18-yard box. Goncalves found himself writhing on the pitch as Olave easily won the ball and took it downfield. However, it may have emboldened Olave a bit too much and he was often found downfield out of position. Thankfully, Schuler was on his game and kept Olave's eagerness from getting the better of Real. Grade: B-

Tony Beltran continues to show why Real has the strongest back line in Major League Soccer. Not only is he perfectly interchangeable with Robbie Russell, but he is also the epitome of what RSL coach Jason Kreis wants from his players: tenacity and boldness. His speed and agility coming up from the back on the opposite side of the field from the speedy Gil proved to be a powerful 1-2 punch. He also owned the much taller and faster Dallas wunderkind Brek Shea all night long on defense. Grade: A-

Will Johnson gave Real a powerful 1-2-3 punch in teaming up with Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy to take total control of the midfield. His willingness to chase down balls and challenge anything that came close to him made up for the occasional too eager pass or shot. His assist to Espindola came as the result of his unbelievable work rate so it no doubt works. Grade: B+

Kyle Beckerman was exactly what Kreis ordered in the midfield as a potent prescription of pluck and persistence that made Real kings of the midfield even with Dallas' crowded formation. In fact, he was a bit too plucky earning a yellow card caution in the 29th minute for arguing his case a little too vigorously in a clear takedown from behind. Grade: A-

Ned Grabavoy was forced to play deeper than usual due to Dallas' five-man midfield, but he combined with Beckerman in taking control of the central midfield where they surely maintained better than 70 percent possession. Grabavoy doesn't have quite the endurance of some of the other midfielders, but he left everything he had on the field when subbed out in the 70th minute. Grade: B+

Andy Williams got pretty banged up in the first half off a handful of midfield challenges that rarely went his way. It threw off his typically smooth groove, but he got it back in a hurry with a goal off a free kick from 25 yards out in the 47th minute that trickled out of the hands of Dallas goalie Kevin and across the goal line to put Real up 1-0. Grade: B+

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