Real Salt Lake dominated Toronto FC Saturday, routing the big-spending Canadian side 3-0. Salt Lake will certainly earn plaudits for its victory. Here are 10 tidbits I picked up from the match.
1. Beckerman v. Bradley
Nat Borchers set off a national debate during the week when he suggested that Kyle Beckerman is better than Toronto FC DP Michael Bradley. A debate like this can’t be settled in one match, or even three matches, but the victory in Saturday’s round clearly went to the player with the most hair. Real Salt Lake dominated Toronto in every facet of the match, and Beckerman’s play was particularly good.
While most outside of Salt Lake would give the nod to the former Roma standout, it was nice to see the hometown hero win a round.
2. Plata-less Offense Rides On
Joao Plata was the key to the RSL offense in the first three matches of the season. When he left injured early in last week’s match against the Galaxy, things did not go well. In this match, things were better. The offense played great even without the 5’2” striker. The Salt Lake offense threatened throughout the match, scoring three goals and taking 17 shots. Suffice it to say, the Salt Lake attack is alive and well, even without its shortest contributor.
3. Verdict on Toronto FC
Toronto was 2-0 coming into Saturday’s clash, but the side had also faced two back lines that were still gelling after off-season turnover. The challenge of Rio Tinto Stadium and a healthy Salt Lake back line was a good test to see if Toronto’s offense is as good as advertised. Simply put, Toronto failed this test. It would be a surprise if Toronto missed the playoffs, but those trying to anoint them the best team in MLS need to step back and take a breath. They’ve now beaten two rebuilding back lines and lost embarrassingly to one of the league’s top sides.
“We didn’t think … we were a finished product or all of a sudden the best team in the league,” Bradley said. “There is still a lot of work to do. We still feel good about the group that we have. We’re going to be a team that’s going to be there in the end.”
The Rio Tinto Stadium crowd of over 18,000 sent Toronto off the field with a loud chant of “overrated.” That seems about right.
4. Schuler’s Dominance Continues
Chris Schuler was amazing in this match. He did a great job of locking down the Toronto attackers. His seven recoveries came at ideal times. It is hard to overstate how different the Salt Lake back line is with him in the lineup. As long as he can stay healthy, RSL will be in every match that it plays.
5. Suspend Toledo!
RSL fans will remember Baldomero Toledo mistakenly waiving off a Javier Morales goal in the L.A. Galaxy series last year. He was in horrid form Saturday, repeatedly overruling his assistants and watching players get hacked to the ground without a whistle. He tried to wave off the Saborio penalty until his AR forced him to call it.
Later in the first half, Steven Caldwell’s horrific slide tackle at Ned Grabavoy somehow only earned a yellow card. It is hard to imagine the disciplinary committee not taking action against Caldwell for the play. Still, Toledo was standing right there and missed it badly.
Toledo’s performance was beneath the (honestly, pretty low) standards of MLS. He is far too experienced to have put on the disgraceful performance he did Saturday. PRO needs to suspend him for a few matches or at least ban him from officiating Real Salt Lake. At this point, it’s a player safety issue.
6. Testing Nick Rimando
The Toronto attack came out with a novel strategy, testing Nick Rimando’s willingness to come out of the box and play with his feet. Toronto started the match by dropping balls just outside the 18 yard box. It nearly worked on a couple of occasions, but Salt Lake’s recovery defense was able to stop the attack each time. Later, Toronto started taking shots from distance aimed just inside the posts. Ryan Nelson, the head coach at Toronto FC, is a former teammate of Rimando. That probably explains the unique strategies employed against him.
“I know Nick really well. I know his strengths. I know his weaknesses,” Nelson said. “We probably didn’t implement them [our strategies] as best as we could.”
7. The Marquee Matchup Disappoints
At the end of last season, nobody would have pegged Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake as a marquee match-up. Flash forward to the start of this season, and it was billed as a big game between top teams. Heck, Jurgen Klinsmann even came to watch all the top-tier players. For their part, Luis Gil and Kyle Beckerman put on good performances and certainly made their respective cases to be included on the plane to Brazil this summer.
The media hyped this match, but Salt Lake ran away with it early. It almost felt like a traditional beat-down of Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium. Old habits die hard, I guess.
8. Beckerman’s 300th Match
Beckerman started his 300th match Saturday, moving him into sole possession of 6th all-time in MLS history. It’s a testament to the Salt Lake captain’s longevity that he has played at such a high level for so many years. That’s true of Rimando as well. Rimando and Beckerman are 1st and 2nd in all-time minutes played among active MLS players.
9. Injuries Linger
Real Salt Lake was without Robbie Findley, Plata, Aaron Maund, Sebastian Velasquez, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, and Jordan Allen due to injury. Salt Lake famously has great depth, but the side is in real trouble if a couple more injuries occur.
10. Sandoval Getting Healthier
The RSL press corps have been getting apoplectic about injuries (see previous point) and forwards in particular. Thus, it is worth noting that Devon Sandoval made the 18 for Saturday’s match, and entered for the last few minutes of play. The Salt Lake forwards are now three strong, with Plata coming back soon.
Category: Five Thoughts