Real Salt Lake report card: Midfield gassed by end, enough to hold off Seattle
Real Salt Lake was nearly back at full strength Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, missing only Alvaro Saborio, who injured his knee while on national team duty for Costa Rica, and Chris Wingert. But Luis Gil and Robbie Findley both found the back of the net in the first half to put RSL up 2-0. Seattle came back in the second half with much stronger pressure, scoring in the 57th minute off a Brad Evans goal and a clearer intent to keep from ending the night with their worst season start of their short MLS existence. But RSL dug in and while fatigue clearly slowed RSL's midfield, Seattle still ended the night with the loss — and the worst season start in franchise history.
Nick Rimando (GK) — Rimando wasn't tested nearly as much as Seattle's Michael Gspurning who was subjected to nine shots on goal in the first half alone, compared to only two on Rimando. But when Rimando was challenged, he was flawless — even with Seattle's single goal. His diving save in the 54th minute was the best of his saves. Unfortunately, Seattle's Brad Evans was let loose unmarked in the 18-yard box in the 57th minute to put a ball far post that Rimando had no possible way of saving. GRADE: A
Tony Beltran (DEF) — Seattle's attack along both wings was met by perhaps RSL's best defensive effort from both Beltran and his partner Abdoulie Mansally. Where Mansally was extremely active on the offensive attack, Beltran was called on to play man-to-man defense all night on Seattle's speedy Steve Zakuani. Zakuani had little role in Seattle's attack as Beltran held him in check with speed and smarts. Grade: A-
Nat Borchers (DEF) — Borchers arguably does the little things better than perhaps any defender in Major League Soccer. Positioning, timing on defensive headers, field management and energy management are all flawless. Speed, not so much. But what he gives up in speed, he makes up for with veteran smarts. And that's all he needed to keep Eddie Johnson from doing much damage. GRADE: A
Chris Schuler (DEF) — Schuler didn't stick out Saturday night, which was a good thing given some of his mistakes earlier in the year. He was quite solid defensively, keeping Seattle's front line frustrated with his size and strength. His only downfall Saturday was his lack of impact on RSL's offensive sets due to some unfocused positioning. GRADE: B+
Abdoulie Mansally (DEF) — Mansally had his best impact moment so far this season with a perfect cross to Devon Sandoval in the 6th minute, placing it perfectly at the streaking striker's right foot for one touch and a point-blank shot inside the 6-yard box, which Gspurning parried away. In fact, with his untiring runs, great offensive play and solid positioning, Mansally had his best game of not only the season, but his career in the Claret and Cobalt. GRADE: A-
Sebastian Velasquez (MID) — Saturday night was a tale of two halves for Velasquez. The young Colombian may not have the speed of Will Johnson, but he absolutely has the work rate. And with his foot-skills, easily one of the best on the team, he's formidable at the wing. Saturday he put all his skills on display and played into RSL's domination of the midfield during the first half. Unfortunately, his lack of pace made for some scary moments in the second half, as he appeared wiped-out by the 75th minute. His decision making, which had been so strong in the first half, broke down almost completely in the second half. GRADE: B-
Kyle Beckerman (MID) — Beckerman might have been a little bushed from two U.S. Men's National Team games in the past seven days. While his passing and effort were trademark, his positioning at times was suspect, especially in the 57th minute when he left an unmarked Brad Evans deep in the 18-yard box during a Seattle attack, allowing him to run unmarked onto a lose ball which he placed perfectly far-post so that Rimando had no possible play. GRADE: B
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