SANDY — Mike Petke and Nedum Onuoha stopped short of saying Real Salt Lake’s 3-0 victory over Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium was the team’s most complete or very best game of the season, but it was pretty darn good nonetheless.
Damir Kreilach got the scoring going early, Sebastian Saucedo and Jefferson Savarino added goals later and Nick Rimando finished with the clean sheet in his return from a four-game absence because of injury as RSL picked up its second straight win.
“Overall, they had a lot of the possession the first 15, 20 minutes, but we never really felt completely threatened at goal, weathered the storm a little bit and then we started playing a little and three really good goals,” Petke said.
Added Onuoha: “I don’t think we were like 10 out of 10 for the whole game, but I think for longer periods compared to other games. ... We’ve had good 30-minute spells, 40-minute spells, but it felt like 60 to 75 minutes in this game, I thought we were in control.”
Indeed Toronto did control possession early on, but in the 14th minute, Albert Rusnak took a throw-in from Saucedo and immediately delivered it into the 18-yard box. Kreilach settled it with his chest, got free from two defenders and rifled a shot past Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg and into the net.
Just 14 minutes later, Saucedo delivered what some called one of the best goals in Rio Tinto Stadium history when he sent an absolute rocket from about 30 yards out past Westberg’s outstretched arms.
Then in the 60th minute, Saucedo lofted a ball over the top of the Toronto defense from just past midfield, Savarino beat his defender to it and sent a shot past Westberg.
“That’s my bread and butter, trying to receive the ball out wide and cutting in and shooting from 30, 40 yards out,” Saucedo said of his laser. “I’m not scared to shoot. Definitely something I practice in training, shooting back post, near post, whatever it is. Thank God I scored the goal ... happy for the group that we were able to give three points to our fans.”
With the three points, RSL at least momentarily jumped over Minnesota United FC in the table and into sixth place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference. On the afternoon, RSL finished with a whopping 19 shots compared to 10 for Toronto. The win was good from a goal differential standpoint, as the home side went from -5 to -2 on the campaign.
After Savarino’s goal, which came as he got the start over designated player Sam Johnson after Johnson was late to a pregame team meeting, it appeared as though RSL could do even more damage, as Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo was shown his second yellow card of the day in the 61st minute.
From that point, however, Toronto stayed dangerous even with the game essentially decided, forcing Rimando into a couple of nice saves late to preserve the clean sheet.
The veteran was credited with three saves on the afternoon.
“Nick, shutout, what can you say?” Petke said. “Not much to say about Nick. Twenty years, you expect that. What do they call him, the Wall of the Wasatch? You expect that. I’m happy with him coming back in after being out for a bit. Now he’s got even more confidence for next game.”1 comment on this story
Petke was also pleased that he was able to put Everton Luiz into the game after the midfielder had also missed some time because of injury. Luiz came on in the closing minutes for Kreilach.
RSL has now won two straight games and scored six goals in the process, but things get tough this week as the club will host the defending MLS Cup champion, Atlanta United FC, on Friday.
“They’re another good attacking team,” defender Aaron Herrera said. “They play fast, and so we’ve definitely got to be dialed in for that one.”