SANDY — Real Salt Lake's convincing victory over Toronto FC on Saturday was the natural progression for a team that's starting to get things figured out again.
Going all the way back to its second-half performance in Philadelphia on June 11, RSL has increasingly looked more and more confident considering what have been difficult circumstances with virtually no healthy strikers.
That growing confidence combined with the return of Alvaro Saborio was the perfect storm in the 3-1 victory over Toronto.
"I feel like the last three matches we've started to gain some momentum, even though we haven't gained all the points that we would've wanted along the way," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "I still feel like we've started to gain momentum and I'm hopeful this is the one that will put us over the top and give everyone a ton of confidence going forward."
RSL's confidence could've easily been dashed a week ago when a harsh decision by the referee resulted in a 1-1 draw against D.C. United. Instead of feeling sorry for themselves though, the players collected themselves quickly and earned a tie in Chicago just a few days later despite Artur Aghasyan and Luis Gil playing the majority of the game at forward.
Toronto's porous defense — which at 29 goals allowed in 18 matches is already nine more than RSL surrendered all last year — was exactly what Kreis' team needed to take the next step.
Suddenly RSL's 2-2-5 record while it's been learning to play without star midfielder Javier Morales doesn't look so bad. With five of its next six matches at home, things are lining up favorably for Real Salt Lake to climb back into the Western Conference chase.
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said overall team possession is what has helped turn things around.
"The quick passing is coming back, and we're able to break teams down that way. When we were at our best that's what you see a lot," said Beckerman. "That seems to be almost getting back to where it was."
Toronto coach Aron Winter was definitely impressed.
"What can you say? We were playing against one of the best teams in MLS. If you notice, I think about one and a half months ago they were playing in the final for the CONCACAF (Champions League). Today Salt Lake was the best team, for me, that we've played against," said Winter.
As injured strikers like Fabian Espindola, Paulo Jr. and Arturo Alvarez get back into the fold and start contributing again, RSL's level of play should only get better.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. TWITTER: @DesNewsReal
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company