Real Salt Lake report card: Straight A's for RSL in romp over Toronto

Published: Monday, March 31 2014 9:25 a.m. MDT

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (18) makes a diving save during a game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

Saturday’s match is the only regular season meeting between Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC. Toronto takes Rio Tinto field after a major reboot, bringing US International MF Michael Bradley and former English Premier League star striker Jermaine Defoe, Brazilians FW Gilberto, fresh off a 14 goal season at Brazilian Série A side Portugesa, and Brazilian Men’s National Team GK Julio Cesar. The returns have been good, with Toronto sharing second place in the Easter Conference with a 2-0-0 record.

The RSL faithful were out in full force, with 18,889 of them filling the stands, hoping for the boys in Claret and Cobalt to keep the Toronto Superstars from a win at the Fortress. RSL entered the game without former Toronto FW, Joao Plata, who had been on a tear to start the season before going out with a hamstring injury against Los Angeles in RSL’s 1-1 draw last Saturday. Real entered the game in fourth place in the Western Conference with a 1-0-2 record.

Real Salt Lake was up for the challenge Saturday, with it’s defense looking as strong as it ever has off coach Jeff Cassar’s focus on sound defense. The offensive attack was equally solid, with Alvaro Saborio scoring 1 off a PK in the first half and another in the second, with Luis Gil adding a third to give RSL a 3-0 shutout.

Goalkeeper

Nick Rimando had a save in the first half and another in the second half. Other than that, he really didn’t have too much to worry about, until Toronto went into berserker mode, after Alvaro Saborio’s second goal scored in the 55th minute, led by Michael Bradley who spun what looked like a wide shot right into the right post as Rimando stood slack-armed on his line. Thankfully his defense had no trouble gobbling up the rebound. Gilberto’s shot in the 56th minute was better on frame and Rimando had no trouble collecting it. Toronto sent another shot screaming goal-ward in the 57th minute which Rimando parried wide. The attack trailed off until the 76th minute when Rimando had his 5th and 6th saves of the game.

Grade: A

Defenders

Tactics

Nothing new to see here. Schuler and Borchers in the middle, Wingert and Beltran on the outside. Toronto played a very high line of attack most of the game, allowing for significant room in the midfield for RSL’s defenders to linkup with the midfield, albeit with a lot less time than they’re used to.

Tony Beltran played excellent attacking soccer, Saturday night, linking up with Morales and Gil all night long. His defending was solid as well, matching step for step Toronto’s speedy MF Alvaro Rey and FW Jermaine Defoe.

Chris Schuler was issued a silly yellow card caution in the 37th minute on a foul where the replay showed him first to the ball and with almost no contact at all against Toronto FW Gilberto, who went down writhing in pain as if his leg were broken. His physical play left nothing to be ashamed of.

Nat Borchers was at his best picking up the likes of Jermain Defoe on streaking runs into the box. He was as good with his head as he’s been at RSL and his positioning was key to keeping Toronto off the score sheet, particularly during their second half onslaught.

Chris Wingert just does the right thing. He’s not flashy, but he’s rarely out of position and he was very good Saturday night. He subbed out in the 58th minute, making way for Rich Balchan’s first appearance since his 12 month shoulder rehab stint ended this season.

Rich Balchan (Sub, ’58) had no trouble matching the physical tone set by Wingert and the rest of the RSL back line. He was rusty, particularly in man-to-man battles, but in the end he was not a liability, and Wingert has to be happy the backup is back in the lineup for the occasional breather or injury fill-in, heaven forbid.

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