I know what the problem is and it’s going to be fixed soon. That’s all you’re going to get from me tonight. —RSL manager Mike Petke
TORONTO — Despite a late goal and yet another all-star caliber performance by goalkeeper Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake failed to come away with a result at a cold BMO Field Friday, losing 3-1 to Toronto FC.
It was a difficult game for RSL, which struggled to contain U.S. International Jozy Altidore, who scored a brace in the win for TFC.
With temperatures just 35 degrees at kick-off and falling to 28 by final whistle, RSL struggled to gain a foothold in the difficult conditions. Toronto’s BMO Field was hosting its fourth game in winter-like conditions in a month and was visibly torn up, making it difficult to play with any level of creativity.
Following the game, RSL manager Mike Petke was visibly angry and succinct in his message.
“I know what the problem is and it’s going to be fixed soon,” he said before adding that “that’s all you’re going to get from me tonight.”
The home side appeared to simplify its game plan, attacking the flanks aggressively while looking to get the big body of Altidore involved. The Reds were particularly strong in the first hall when they came out determined and, perhaps, a little desperate, having failed to gain any points in the MLS season so far. Despite resting starting keeper Alex Bono along with regular starters Victor Vasquez, Eric Zavaleta and Justin Morrow for CONCACAF Champions League action next week, the Reds were in control throughout the match.
Toronto’s win was fueled by a fast start, which saw the hosts create several first-rate scoring chances in the first half. It was a lively Altidore leading the Toronto attack, which outshot RSL 11-3 in the first 45 and 19-8 overall.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney had positive words for his team’s performance.
“I thought we could have taken more out of the first half than we did, but I was pleased with our movement, where we were winning balls, how we were winning balls and the spaces we were getting into.”
Indeed it was wave after wave of good Toronto chances in the first half, most coming off the foot of TFC’s two star attackers, Sebastian Giovinco and Altidore.
Toronto nearly opened the scoring off a counterattack in the 11th minute when Giovinco slid a through ball into Altidore, who found himself one-on-one with Rimando. However, the RSL keeper got off his line quickly to deny the big TFC forward.
It was the second solid save Rimando had made in the early moments of the game. Without the veteran’s presence between the pipes, this game could have gotten ugly for RSL.
Moments after the save on Altidore, Toronto once again found itself deep in the RSL end, with the striker driving hard along the goal line and driving a low cross into the box that was blocked by a sliding Damir Kreilach. Although it looked like a solid defensive play to most, referee Allen Chapman detected a hand ball and pointed to the spot. After a delay of about a minute as RSL players pleaded their case unsuccessfully, Giovinco stepped to the spot and looked to grab TFC’s first MLS goal of the season. However, Rimando had other ideas. After a hesitant run up, Giovinco tried to beat Rimando low to his left, but the veteran got down strong to deny Toronto an early lead.
Seeing the RSL keeper deny Giovinco did not surprise Vanney.
“Rimando is notoriously the best keeper at PKs,” he said.
But the TFC attack was not to be denied, with Giovinco once again linking up with Altidore in the 22nd minute to force Justen Glad to take Altidore down in the box. There wasn’t much doubt about this one, and Altidore made no mistake, calmly stepping up to spot to slide the penalty past Rimando. The keeper guessed correctly, but the shot was too powerful to punch away.
“It was bold (of Altidore to take the penalty),” Vanney said. “I was hoping (Altidore) wouldn’t go up the middle because I thought that Rimando wasn’t going to dive on the second one. He was going to wait and see and Jozy very wisely smashed it into the side.”
Toronto doubled the lead late in the first half at the end of a long stretch of possession. Giovinco fed Ashtone Morgan wide, with the fullback beating Brooks Lennon on the dripple before passing off to Altidore, who slotted the ball neatly into the far left corner of the gaol. Rimando had little chance. It was Altidore’s 50th goal in a Toronto uniform.
Toronto sat back in the second half, content to protect its two-goal lead. However, RSL couldn’t penetrate in any significant way until the 82nd minute when substitute Corey Baird cut the lead to 2-1 with a nicely placed ball to Irwin’s left, off a feed from Jefferson Savarino. The goal came against the run of play and made for a nervy finish for the 28,006 Toronto fans in attendance.
However, Toronto’s Tosaint Ricketts scored in stoppage time to put it away, gobbling up a rebound off the crossbar to fire it home with power.
The loss drops Real Salt Lake’s record to 1-2-1 on the year. Defending MLS Cup champion Toronto runs its record to 1-2-0.