Well it was a packed house at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday night, despite the late start time over 20,000 people showed up to watch Real Salt Lake take on Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League action and for those who remember the CCL final against Monterrey last year the first half had to leave you a bit nervous as RSL hit the post, had a shot pushed over the crossbar, and a couple other quality shots saved by the Tauro keeper. It was as if despite all the great play, and we saw some of the best play of the year by guys like Ned Grabavoy, Will Johnson, Tony Beltran, and Paulo Jr.
You can check out the highlight video here (thanks to RSL for posting this):
There actually wasn't anyone in that first half who didn't impress, Kenny Mansally got the start as Chris Wingert moved to center back and was rock solid alongside Kwame Watson-Siriboe, and with Nick Rimando in goal there was really only one scare all night long as we had a bit of trouble clearing a set piece from the area, but Nick was there to clean it up. I thought that both Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales got off to slow starts, but improved as the night went along, well until a bad decision by Kyle in the second half.
After the jump, my thoughts on the match:
I expected Tauro to play a fairly defensive style at least until they got adjusted to conditions and how RSL was going to play but the high pressure of RSL all over the pitch had to catch them by surprise and you could see their coach up yelling instructions early and often on the night. I knew they would be a bit gassed having to play a league match on Saturday, then travel to Salt Lake, and then playing at elevation, but some of the tactics of laying down for a rest and embellishment on tackles was over the top. Now it wasn't Arabe Unido over the top but it was still enough to get the RSL faithful on the case of both the Tauro players and the officials who bought into the act.
So despite a huge edge in possession, shots, shots on goal, passing, passing completion the first half ended in a bit of frustration for RSL and their fans as the score was 0-0 despite all the hard work.
So I was left to wonder how RSL would respond to not getting a goal despite so many quality efforts by so many players, the answer came quickly as Paulo Jr. made an amazing run through the Tauro defense and while his shot was stopped by the keeper the rebound was put into the back of the net by Alvaro Saborio to give RSL the 1-0 lead just 3 minutes into the second half. That wasn't enough as just second later Alvaro Saborio fired another shot on goal that almost doubled the lead for RSL, and sure enough RSL would get that second goal just 10 minutes later. Once again Paulo Jr. was the man creating chances as a well-timed pass to Kyle Beckerman and a laser shot from the RSL captain found the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.
It sure looked like RSL was poised to get more goals, even after Kenny Mansally had to be subbed off and Jonny Steele came on, with Will Johnson moving to the back line. The sub of Fabian Espindola for Paulo Jr. I thought was going to be huge for us to make some convincing runs at the defense of Tauro which had started pushing higher as they looked desperate to get back into the match. Of course the red card to Kyle Beckerman in the 72nd minute forced RSL to re-evaluate their game plan as they brought on Yordany Alvarez for Alvaro Saborio, which limited RSL to just one forward and gave a lot of energy to Tauro FC who smelled blood in the water and really changed their mindset and work rate to try to get back into the match.
Some great work by all the RSL players on the pitch kept Tauro from being too dangerous and despite the final 20 minutes having to play on our heels and give up a ton of possession the team was able to keep the clean sheet and it was a honest team effort.
A great win that hopefully can boost RSL as they head to Philly for their 2012 debut on national TV Friday night and beyond.
So what did you think of the teams effort on Tuesday night?
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