SANDY — Listless is only way to describe the first 30 minutes of Real Salt Lake's match with San Jose on Saturday. Thanks to Ned Grabavoy, Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola, though, RSL came to life in the 35th minute and controlled the flow of the game the rest of the night en route to the 4-0 win.
Saborio scored twice in the second half while Kyle Beckerman and Jamison Olave each scored, producing the best half of soccer RSL has played since April.
Nick Rimando was never really tested Saturday night thanks in part to a good game from his defensive line and his swarming midfielders, but the most thanks goes to a lackluster attack from San Jose. Too bad the veteran keeper's distribution was uncharacteristically poor Saturday, especially to his two forwards on a night when both were at the top of their game. Grade: B-
Robbie Russell got the call Saturday night, rotating in for Chris Wingert. Tony Beltran was moved over to the right so Russell could play his best side, where he was good but not great. His decisions were sometimes slow on the buildup, and with San Jose plugging the midfield by dropping a forward, he was often the reason Real lost momentum during the first half. Grade: B-
Jamison Olave must have made Nat Borchers and coach Jason Kreis both very nervous by wandering the field like a vagabond. He was out of position on too many occasions. But when he was in position he was a beast in using his superior strength and speed to close the door on anything San Jose sent his way and muscling his way around the box on set pieces to get two shots on goal. He converted one off a header in the 83rd minute. Grade: B+
Nat Borchers continues to show why RSL deserves to see a second central defender take MLS Defender of the Year in as many seasons. His positioning, decisions and leadership are near textbook examples of his position. Not known for his speed, Borchers had no trouble staying with and shutting down the speedy Chris Wondolowski all game long. Grade: A-
Tony Beltran continues to show confidence beyond his years. Kreis has pointed to his work ethic this season and it's clearly making a difference. He shut down every attack on the left side with speed and some very impressive ball handling skills under pressure. His all-out run in the 74th minute saved the ball from crossing the endline then produced the cross that set the events in motion that gave Beckerman his goal. Grade: A-
Ned Grabavoy was Real's spark plug. His hustle plays and near-rocket header goal in the 36th minute brought life to an otherwise listless RSL club in the first half, which was carried over in spades to the second half. His near goal in the 78th minute rebounded off the crossbar to give Beckerman his goal. Grade: A-
Kyle Beckerman had a rocky start. He was shown a yellow card in the 13th minute on a silly foul from behind and missed a wide open shot off a beautiful layoff from Saborio in the first half that sailed over the crossbar when he elected for power over placement. His rebound goal scored in the 78th minute was proof positive that Beckerman can never be counted out, even on a less than perfect night. Grade: B+
Andy Williams must have found the unexpected bye last weekend just what the doctor ordered. While he took a few minutes to get his engine going, by the end of the first half his trademark ease on the ball was back and his energy off the ball produced exactly the kind of game RSL fans have come to expect from him in seven seasons of play. Grade: B+
Will Johnson can be frustrating to watch sometimes. Not because he lacks desire or skill but because his work ethic can sometimes carry him past that balance point every soccer player seeks between hard work and efficiency. Johnson made numerous trademark hustle plays, but on a number of occasions his passes were just a little too long or carried too much pace and when he got the opportunity to shoot he hit the ball with too much pace to send the ball harmlessly to the side. That said, every coach in Major League Soccer not only needs but wants a player like Johnson in the midfield and Kreis has certainly made it clear he's no different by keeping him in the starting line up all year long. Grade: B
Alvaro Saborio is back. He was a monster on the front line, playing a near perfect game with his back to the goal winning every header and showing tremendous hustle on both sides of the ball. He produced two beautiful power shots in the first half alone. His 63rd-minute goal off a penalty kick that sent San Jose's Bobby Burling off with a straight red card must have felt like sweet redemption for a guy who's taken a lot of flack, perhaps deservedly, for less than stellar play this season. His rebound goal in the 75th minute seemed a reward from the soccer gods for the change of attitude it's taken to make the comeback. Welcome back! Man of the Match. Grade: A
Fabian Espindola was too much for San Jose to handle. His combination play with a rising Saborio was a joy to watch. Even when double- and triple-teamed, Espindola was impossible for the Earthquakes to mark. He slipped past the defense on numerous occasions and usually found a player streaking into the box. When he was able to face up to the goal, he made San Jose keeper Jon Busch earn his keep with two very good saves. Grade: A
Collen Warner replaced Williams and didn't miss a beat. While he wasn't called on to do much, the few opportunities he had to touch the ball showed confidence and skill as Warner helped Real maintain total control of the ball during the minutes that saw Real gather a bushel of goals. Grade: B+
Arturo Alvarez replaced Grabavoy in the 79th minute and struggled to find his rhythm. Luckily the game was already in hand and Alvarez was happy to keep San Jose from mounting anything resembling an attack in the final minutes of the game. Grade: B
Luis Gil came on for Johnson in the 82nd minute but played too few minutes to make much of an impact. Grade: Incomplete
Chris Higbee is the Product Director for DeseretNews.com. He can be found on Twitter @chigbee.
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