Real Salt Lake report card: Straight A's for RSL in romp over Toronto
RSL countered Toronto’s flattened midfield with a broader diamond than usual, partially to pull Tornoto’s midfield out of shape, and to leave the defensive wings in position to pick up Toronto’s speedy front line and higher midfield wingers.
Luis Gil showed why Jurgen Klinsman called him into the USMNT camp earlier in the week with tenacious play and excellent passing up the right side. But it was his 28th minute score off a Chris Wingert pin-baller into the box that put RSL up 2-0, and showed why his star is rising fast in US Soccer.
Javier Morales had the kind of game RSL fans hope to see every time RSL takes the field this season. His passing was beautiful, but his receiving was perfection. His linkup play through the middle of the field set up RSL’s second goal and caused Toronto problems all night long. His shot in the 88th minute swerved into the box with “goal” written all over it until Julio Cesar made an acrobatic leap to parry it away.
Kyle Beckerman may have felt the need to outplay his Toronto counterpart, Michael Bradley with USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsman looking on. In fact, he ended up having the more interesting match ups with Bradley, rather than the expected dual between Javier Morales and the Toronto superstar. Beckerman held his own, but Bradley had the upper hand much of the night. He beat Beckerman on more than one occasion on the attack to send quality balls straight ahead into the box for Defoe to run onto. Beckerman struggled with his passing Saturday but his effort never flagged and he ended up instrumental in keeping Toronto off the score-sheet Saturday.
Ned Grabavoy continues to show why he’s one of the most improved players in Major League Soccer saturday. He’s always been skilled, but the last 12 months have seen him turn from a usually defensive minded midfielder into a devastatingly dangerous attacking winger. His work, particularly in the box, Saturday kept Toronto on their heels and struggling to build any momentum out of RSL attacks.
Luke Mulholland (Sub ’88) subbed on for Javier Morales in mop-up time.
The tandem of Alvaro Saborio and Joao Plata was money for RSL the first two-and-a-half games. But with Plata exiting Real’s match with Los Angeles last Saturday with a hamstring injury, the young Colombian Olmes Garcia, gets the opportunity to show salivating Salt Lake fans a pairing they’ve been calling for since Garcia joined the club in 2012. Garcia and Plata are both speedy, both crafty and both fearless. But even though the two are close in age, Garcia lacks some of the patience and maturity that made Plata seem like he’d found mid-season form early. Word is Plata could be back in as soon as 3 weeks.
Alvaro Saborio started the game working Toronto’s back line into a frenzy with physical play and head games, culminating in a 10th minute throw down by Toronto DF Doniel Henry inside the box that put RSL’s leading PK scorer at the spot where he cooly slotted a right footer past Julio Cesar into the left inside netting to put RSL up 1-0. Saborio’s willingness to play back defensively this season has been exciting to watch. In fact, it was a huge part of why Javier Morales was able to hit come forward with velocity much of the night, off Saborio stops in the midfield. He capped a tremendous night of work with a 55th minute goal as he streaked into the box to beat Julio Cesar. Man of the Match.
Olmes Garcia’s speed was more than enough to keep things even along RSL’s front line in place of Joao Plata Saturday night. He was very good in the box, but his matchup with Toronto’s Justin Morrow and Doniel Henry was just plain fun to watch. He was physical, he was fast and he made RSL dangerous all night, until being subbed out for Devon Sandoval in the 84th minute.
Devon Sandoval (Sub ’84) made his season debut, Saturday in place of an Olmes Garcia who left everything he had on the field. Sandoval was adequate, still lacking some field awareness coming out of the winter break.
Chris Higbee is a former General Manager of DeseretNews.com who continues to write about Real Salt Lake.
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