Real Salt Lake earned another three points with a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers Saturday. Here are 10 tidbits I picked up from the match.
1. Unbeaten Streak
Real Salt Lake extended its unbeaten streak to seven with Saturday’s victory. The side is the last remaining unbeaten in MLS play and the points are racking up. It is an impressive start, especially given how difficult Real Salt Lake’s first seven matches have been. If the side can keep anything close to this pace throughout the season, the Supporter’s Shield is a strong possibility.
2. Rimando’s Return
The Salt Lake netminder returned after missing two matches with a knee injury and did so in style. That’s bad news for the crank who tweeted he was out for the season, but it is good news for everyone else in Claret and Cobalt. While Jeff Attinella performed well, Rimando is the best keeper in the league by far. It was good to see him out there. He earned my Man of the Match award.
Nick’s opening save on Darlington Nagbe showed off his quick reflexes and showed he is back in full form. His 85th minute and 88th minute saves to preserve the lead were vintage Nick. With most goalkeepers, Real Salt Lake would have lost or drawn this match. That’s why he’s the best in MLS.
“He’s amazing. I just think it’s normal now,” captain Kyle Beckerman said of Rimando. He’s a national team goalkeeper, and that’s the type of things that those goalkeepers can do. He was a big part of us getting three points tonight.”
3. Ned’s Strike
Ned Grabavoy’s goal to give Salt Lake a late win was a thing of beauty. His left footed shot from 18 yards out beat Ricketts and just tucked inside the far post. It was the sort of strike you’d be amazed at, even if it came from Morales or Saborio. Ned came into the league as an attacking midfielder and he showed it with that shot.
True to form, Ned spent post-match interviews giving credit to the other players involved with the play rather than boasting about his phenomenal shot. Real Salt Lake is lucky to have him.
4. Lucky and Unlucky Bounces
Real Salt Lake was fortunate in the second half when Max Urruti hit the post, whiffed on a cross, and botched an open shot at Rimando in quick succession during the second half. Each of those could easily have been goals, so Salt Lake was fortunate to escape without giving up a goal or two in the second half.
Salt Lake was also unfortunate when Javier Morales hit the post in the 73rd minute and on a few other chances. All of those concerns were erased when Grabavoy gave the home side the lead late in the match. But the scoreline doesn’t reflect that this match could have gone very differently in either direction.
5. Darlington Nagbe is Really Good
The eye test bears out what the stats have been showing all year. Nagbe has grown from a brilliant-yet-inconsistent player into the most dangerous guy Portland has. Real Salt Lake doubled him whenever possible and spent a lot of time trying to hold him up or knock him down.
He is a star in the making, both for Major League Soccer and the US Men’s National Team. Portland has a star in the making.
6. Later Subs Under Cassar
RSL coach Jeff Cassar is still trying to learn his style. One thing that stood out Saturday was waiting until later in the match to bring in subs. Jason Kreis typically made his first substitution in the 60th minute; however, Cassar has been waiting a little bit longer. This isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it is different. Therefore, it’s worth mentioning as a tidbit. For the record, the first two RSL subs in this match happened in the 67th minute.
7. Nice Tifo
One section on the East side rolled out an anti-Portland Tifo that was quite good. “Soccer for Dummies a.ka. Porterball” deserves a mention here.
8. Mulholland Starts
Mulholland has been a great piece of the Real Salt Lake puzzle and someone who is pushing the other starting midfielders to play their best or risk losing their starting spots. He had a few bad plays Saturday, but he also made a few really good ones. Realistically, Luke will probably end up as a playoff sub, but his play has been very good. It was nice to see him get a start.
“It felt great to start my first game in front of the home fans,” Mulholland said. “[I’m] delighted.”
9. Plata Back in the 18
The Ecuadorian striker returned to the 18 after missing three matches due to a hamstring injury. Plata entered in the 67th minute and made a few good hustle plays. He didn’t have too long to make an imprint on the match, but it was nice to see him back out there.
“I thought he was really sharp tonight,” Cassar said.
10. Gil Back in the 18
The prodigy was back in the 18 after missing the last match due to a hamstring issue. That’s just in time to join the US U-21 (probable 2016 Olympic team) camp starting Sunday. Gil did not come off the bench.
Category: Five Thoughts