Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — Real Salt Lake lost four home games last year over all competitions, a frustrating trend that ultimately prevented the club from capturing the hardware it so ambitiously coveted.
For a team that once enjoyed a 37-match home unbeaten streak, rebuilding the Rio Tinto Stadium fortress is one of the team’s biggest goals this season.
Judging by its emphatic 2-0 victory over New York in Saturday night’s chilly home opener, Real Salt Lake is heading in that direction.
Fabian Espindola scored in the first half, and then Luis Gil tacked on an insurance goal in the second half in front of a spirited crowd of 16,738.
RSL’s all-time record in home openers now stands at 4-0-4, which also includes a 1-1 tie with New York back in 2006.
Real Salt Lake controlled possession throughout the match, but it wasn’t able to finally break down New York’s defense until the 39th minute as Espindola narrowly beat an offside trap. He timed his run perfectly on a Paulo Jr. over-the-top pass, and as a result had 20 yards of space to compose himself, take two dribbles into the box before driving the ball between New York keeper Ryan Meara’s legs.
Along with his goal in L.A. last weekend, Saturday’s tally marked the first time Espindola has scored in back-to-back games since last June.
Espindola unofficially had a hand in RSL’s second goal as well. His close-range shot was saved by Meara, but the rebound deflected to an unmarked Gil who easily buried it for the 2-0 lead.
Heading into the match, midfielder Ned Grabavoy said RSL needed to be mindful of New York’s quick counter attacks led by Thierry Henry. The Red Bulls had a few opportunities to run at RSL with even numbers in the first half, but they rarely did anything with them.
New York’s best chance of the first half came in the 29th minute on a darting run up the left sideline by Henry, but Espindola did very well to track all the way back and block his cross near the end line.
Real Salt Lake (2-0-0) returns to action next Saturday at home against Chivas USA.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.
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