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Real Salt Lake report card: Midfield gassed by end, enough to hold off Seattle

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 10:47 p.m. MDT

Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) scores on Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) scores on Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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

Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) takes a shot against Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) takes a shot against Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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+

Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (26) celebrates Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley's (10) score on Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (26) celebrates Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley's (10) score on Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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-

Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) celebrates his goal with teammates on Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley (10) celebrates his goal with teammates on Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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

Luis Gil (MID) — Gil finally found a rhythm Saturday night that had been apparent only in spurts in the offensive midfield position as he's started the season in place of the injured Morales. His passing in the midfield was spot on and his touch was excellent. His efforts were rewarded in the 32nd minute when Ned Grabavoy volleyed a perfectly weighted ball to Gil who, unmarked, dove full-force to put the ball in the back of the net for Real's second goal. GRADE: A, Man of the Match

Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil (21) celebrates his goal against Seattle Sounders FC with teammates during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil (21) celebrates his goal against Seattle Sounders FC with teammates during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Ned Grabavoy (MID) — Grabavoy does a lot of unsung work for RSL. Saturday was not one of those nights. He had more than a handful of moments when fans couldn't help but notice him, his first coming in the 32nd minute when he made a spectacular 30-yard run into the box and was on the receiving end of a Devon Sandoval dummy that allowed him to get a shot off that nearly made goal. He was simply inspiring in the 34th minute when his off balance falling parry off a Velasquez corner ended up perfectly weighted and at the perfect height for Luis Gil to put a full-body diving header past Gspurning for Real's second goal. GRADE: A

Devon Sandoval (FWD) — Sandoval is big, he's imposing and he has a reasonably good touch — a lot like another holding-striker in Salt Lake, Saborio. Sandoval had a terrific far post run in the 6th minute and was rewarded for his efforts with Mansally's perfect 30-yard cross where he touched it with his right foot and got off a point-blank shot inside the 6-yard box, which Gspurning parried away. Sandoval spent the night impressing with very good passing and physical post-up play from which he managed some very good passes, three of which resulted in shots on goal. GRADE: A-

Real Salt Lake forward Jou Plata (8) just misses on a shot during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake forward Jou Plata (8) just misses on a shot during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Robbie Findley (FWD) — Findley started the game hot with a break down the left side and into the box to test Gspurning who picked up where he left off in last year's playoffs, with a spectacular kick-save while diving to his left. But Findley's goal in the 8th minute not only started the scoring, it broke a 408 minute scoreless streak against Seattle. And it was goal-of-the-week stuff — with Findley collecting a rebound off Gspurning, touched it with his right foot, jumped over Gspurning and tapped the ball in with his left. Welcome back Findley! And good-bye — Findley went down in the 12th minute with a left adductor strain and left the field moments later, replaced by Joao Plata. GRADE: A

Joao Plata (FWD, SUB 12') — Plata gave Seattle fits from the moment he entered the game in place of Findley in the 12th minute. He was dangerous all night long, but none more so than in the 46th minute when he made a blistering run into the box with the ball bouncing along beside him off an over the top cross, which he measured perfectly and sent a burner goal-ward only to be turned away by Gspurning's reaction knee-save. Plata had another point-blank shot at Gspurning in the 55th minute thanks to a delightful Sandoval flick but Plata went for power over placement and Gspurning batted his shot out of the air. GRADE: B+

Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (26) competes with Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani (11) during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (26) competes with Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani (11) during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Javier Morales (MID, SUB 62') — Saturday was Morales' season opener for RSL when he was subbed in for Gil. And, he was a little rusty. He was called on three times for set pieces, one met the standard fans are used to seeing. Some of his passes lacked pace and accuracy and it was clearly evident he was slower after several months rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Despite the lackluster start, Morales was still dangerous. He had his best opportunity to score in the 83rd minute when he steamed into the box to find another perfectly placed Sandoval flick-on right at his feet. Just as he went for goal, Seattle's Djimi Traore took him down from behind. A no call from the referee left Morales kneeling at the penalty spot wondering what just happened. GRADE: B+

Lovell Palmer (DEF, SUB 81') Palmer came on in place of a winded Mansally. Palmer held his own and played a key role in helping Real finish off the night with the win. GRADE: A-

Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil (21) celebrates his goal against Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Gil (21) celebrates his goal against Seattle Sounders FC during MLS action in Sandy Saturday, March 30, 2013. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Chris Higbee is the General Manager of DeseretNews.com.

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