Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
If Saturday's home opener is any indication of what this balanced and talented young team can do, 2012 could be a very exciting year for Real Salt Lake. Half the midfield and forward lines were fill-ins, but you wouldn't know it with the way they sliced and diced New York's defense, owning the midfield with impunity. Chris Schuler even held up well in his reserve role against superstar Thierry Henry, keeping his length and strength in check. As a team, Real earned a well deserved A for their first win at home and second of the season.
Nick Rimando worked hard for his clean sheet, particularly in the second half, parrying away what looked like two sure goals, one in the air and one at the left heel of the goal. As usual, his distribution was intelligent and his vision of the field one of the veteran's best kept secrets. Grade: A
Tony Beltran was David to Joel Lindpere's Goliath but he never backed down. His speed and ball handling ability frustrated the NewYork front line most of the night. Kreis' decision to play the injured Beltran was a surprise but the bum knee didn't seem to hamper him at all. Grade: A-
Jamison Olave was a brick wall Saturday night. Henry tried taking it to him and was repelled. Kenny Cooper tried to shiver him out of bounds in the second half on a run down the side and Cooper found himself stumbling off into the night as Jamison shook him off like a pesky kitten. The diminutive Dane Richards didn't even try his luck against the big Colombian. Probably a good idea. Grade: A-
Chris Schuler filled in for the injured Nat Borchers. Tough draw when you're matching up against one of the world's greatest strikers of all time, Thierry Henry. But Schuler didn't flinch. He kept stride with Henry most of the game, allowing him to float free only a handful of times to make some dangerous plays, including a near bicycle goal that secretly had even the Real fans wondering what if. Schuler's finding his stride and Saturday showed he has what it takes to play a full 90 minutes with the best of 'em. Grade: B+
Chris Wingert was steady Eddy Saturday night. Nothing flashy. Nothing out of the ordinary. But that's why Wingert has earned the trust of Jason Kreis. He knows exactly what he'll get. He did happen to string together a handful of nifty passes with his en fuego midfield but it was the midfield that made him look a little more special than he was. Real's defensive line has fewer options this year and Wingert's steady ways could prove to be one of it's greatest strengths. Grade: B+
Ned Grabavoy started the game shaky, fumbling away a breakaway opportunity in the 25th minute when he hesitated on a through ball to a breaking Fabian Espindola, costing Real an unnecessary offside. But once he settled down, Ned's work rate and midfield defense were critical to Real's success. The team of Gil, Grabavoy, Velazquez and Beckerman in the midfield proved extremely potent Saturday. Grade: B+
Kyle Beckerman provided much needed veteran leadership with such a young team on the field Saturday night. Nearly every attack went through him first and he did a terrific job exposing the NY defense with quick, intelligent passing both forward to his fellow midfielders and back to his defenders. His patience ended up being the key to breaking down the Red Bulls and while they seemed to come out with clearer heads in the second half, Beckerman's continued composure held off a push between the 50th and 70th minutes that New York was never really able to remount. Grade: A
Luis Gil showed why he has an incredibly bright future in professional soccer Saturday night with a maturity beyond his years. His ability to quarterback ping-pong passes through the midfield with Velazquez, Beckerman and Grabavoy kept New York on their heels all night. He was issued a suspect yellow card in 21st minute, but his rocket rebound goal in the 59th minute made up for anything the card might have cost the team. Grade: A
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