RSL report card: Strikers receive top marks in win over Rapids
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SANDY — Fans may have seen a glimpse of the future Saturday night.
Veterans Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio were away on national team duty for the United States and Costa Rica in preparation for this summer's World Cup.
Filling in for them were second-year striker Devon Sandoval, second-year midfielder Cole Grossman and second-year goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, and all were instrumental in Saturday's 2-1 over the Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Sandoval played very well and earned a second assist on a Joao Plata 24th-minute goal and earned the PK instrumental in Morales' second, and game winning, goal. Attinella made several fine saves to give RSL the win.
RSL scored again the second half when Javier Morales earned his fourth score of the season from the penalty spot off a Sandoval-earned penalty in the box.
But once again, RSL found itself flagging in the middle of the second half, giving Colorado too much hope. Attinella's quality saves in the 69th and 73rd minutes seemed to shock the Claret and Cobalt back into action and from then on it felt like Saturday would be RSL's night.
But an 83rd-minute Colorado goal made things interesting again.
Attinella will likely be Real Salt Lake's starting goalie for the next two months. With Rimando named to the USMNT 30-man roster earlier this week and leaving for Palo Alto, California, for pre-World Cup camp, Attinella is one of three fill-ins for RSL's national team players.
Attinella didn't have much to do Saturday thanks to excellent play in the midfield and on the backline, but his textbook save in the 46th minute did keep the sheet clean going into the half.
Attinella had two missed punches that good defending on one, and good luck on the other kept Colorado from getting back into the game and even possibly tying it. Good thing Attinella had some killer stops to atone for the mistakes late in the second half. Sadly, his set-piece miss in the 84th minute let Colorado back into the game.
Chris Schuler returned to the pitch Saturday night to give Real their first team backline once again.
Tony Beltran was as comfortable in the attack Saturday as he's been all season. His crosses were standard fare, but his passing around the box created several dangerous scoring opportunities. Beltran was instrumental in RSL's scoring, but he was also an important contributor to its clean sheet at the half.
Chris Schuler brings so much to RSL's defense. His size and strength are apparent on every play in which he's involved. His passing is near 'laser-guided,' and to have that level of service out of the back line to Real's midfielders and forwards, is a great advantage.
Nat Borchers was standard Borchers: all nasty competitor. He clearly has had the mindset all year that his No. 1 keeper was on his way to the World Cup and it would be up to him to leave Attinella as few shots to save as possible since RSL's defense has been one of Major League Soccer's elite goal-stopping units all year.
Saturday night Borchers, along with Schuler, got their opportunity to play in front of Attinella for the second time this season. They did well in the flow of play, but set pieces appear to be an area that the trio will need to work on.
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