On a windy afternoon for the club, Real Salt Lake played host to one of the ferocious teams in the league, Toronto FC. The Reds were looking to bounce back after a heart-wrenching loss at home in the MLS Cup final. RSL, on the other hand, was looking to build upon the chemistry that was built in the preseason having parted ways with two dynamic attackers - Javier Morales and Juan Manuel Martinez.
Toronto bared their fangs early when Chris Schuler misjudged a long throw-in lifted by the wind. The defender scuffed the clearance but held Jozy Altidore on-side. For a time it appeared that Altidore would tuck the ball into the back of the net, but Nick Rimando rushed off his line to bat the ball away to the feet of Chris Wingert who ended up booting the ball out of the danger zone.
Shortly afterwards, the Claret-and-Cobalt got their first chance off a set-piece. Newcomer Albert Rusnak swung a lower corner into the box that was just out of the reach of Yura Movsisyan. The ball bounced around the penalty area once or twice causing some chaos before getting picked up by Kyle Beckerman whose chance was ultimately blocked.
RSL had a scare in the quarter hour mark when Schuler gave up possession in the center of the pitch. Some quick scrambling back into their defensive zone and cool heads prevailed keeping it score-less. But a few minutes after, Toronto appeared to finally get their break.
Altidore chased the ball deep into the attacking half on a quick counter, tussling with the RSL back-line. The U.S. international drew the attentions of the retreating defenders and opened up space for Sebastian Giovinco. With some cleaver footwork the Italian found himself one-on-one with the Wall of the Wasatch before going down and winning the first penalty kick of the 2017 season. Giovinco stepped up to the spot but was denied by the premier shot-stopper in the league.
Sunny went down minutes before the half-time whistle scaring everyone who routs for the Claret-and-Cobalt. On yet another quick counter, Sunny made a jumping lunge movement to prevent another one-on-one with Rimando and Altidore which ended with his knee slamming into the turf. With what could have easily resulted in a torn groin, Sunny ultimately was judged by the physio to be fit enough to return to the match.
After the break both teams conjured up some more decent chances but preseason rust go the better of all of them.
Things got more interesting after Chad Barrett entered the match in the 69th minute. Immediately, the Claret-and-Cobalt became pulling TFC out of formation and creating space between visibly fatigued opponents.
At the 78-minute mark, Beckerman found Joao Plata inside the Toronto box with a scooped pass. Plata drove towards Clint Irwin but his final touch just let him down as he chipped his shot just over the crossbar.
Unfortunately for RSL, they were not able to find the back of the net despite looking the better team in dying embers of the match.
The Claret-and-Cobalt, however, showed some flashes of brilliance and demonstrated some solid interplay together with their new teammates. They will look to build on those positives while expecting more against the Chicago Fire next Saturday, March 11 at noon MST.
Real Salt Lake Starting XI: Nick Rimando; Chris Wingert, Chris Schuler, David Horst, Tony Beltran; Kyle Beckerman, Sunny (Luke Mulholland - 78’); Joao Plata, Albert Rusnak, Jordan Allen (Ricardo Velazco - 87’); Yura Movsisyan (Chad Barrett - 69’)
Toronto FC Starting XI: Clint Irwin; Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta, Steven Beitashour; Jonathan Osorio (Victor Vasquez - 61’), Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper (Marco Delgado - 80’); Sevastain Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
23’ - Schuler (YC) - RSL
29’ - Rimando (YC) - RSL
45’ - Hagglund (YC) - TOR
53’ - Beitashour (YC) - TOR
72’ - Sunny (YC) - RSL
82’ - Giovinco (YC) - TOR
90’ + 3’ - Altidore (YC) - TOR