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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
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Total Team Effort Boosts Real Salt Lake Past Toronto

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SANDY, Utah – Faced with the challenge of starting the game without one of the team’s stars, Real Salt Lake pulled off a 3-0 shutout victory over Toronto FC.

Damir Kreilach, Bofo Saucedo and Jefferson Savarino all had goals to lead RSL to the victory and improve the team’s record to 5-6-1.

Prior to kickoff Mike Petke announced on his pregame show that striker Sam Johnson was going to be held out of the starting lineup after arriving late to a team meeting. It was bold move by Petke to bench the team’s second leading scorer, but the showing of discipline has to be respected.

Johnson’s suspension of sorts put RSL behind the eight ball to start the game, but you never would have guessed it based on the team’s play.

From the get-go RSL was electric, playing with great energy and reflecting the hard-nosed attitude of the team’s head coach.

Defender Nedum Onuoha was especially strong on the back line. While he didn’t have many touches on the ball, his physical play and excellent positioning won several battles in the defending box and prevented Toronto from testing Nick Rimando.

While Onuoha led the RSL defense, the offense played well on their end. Albert Rusnak set the pace for the attacking unit and the first goal by Kreilach was the result of a solid service into the box by Rusnak. That’s not to diminish the skill by Kreilach on the finish, it was an impressive kick on a bouncing ball for the goal.

As the game hit a bit of lull just a few minutes after Kreilach’s goal, Saucedo brought the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium to their feet with an incredible strike from way outside the box. The sound of Saucedo’s foot punching the ball into the net nearly echoed off the nearby Wasatch Mountains.

In the second half, Toronto attempted to inject some more offensive into their game by subbing in U.S. National team star Jozy Altidore.

It didn’t work.

Rather it was RSL who remained in attack mode. Jefferson Savarino scored RSL’s third goal of the game on a nice feed by Saucedo, the unquestionable man of the match, in the 60th minute.

Just a minute later, Toronto lost its best player, Alejandro Pozuelo, after an overly aggressive tackle on Saucedo and forced to play man-down essentially put the nail in the coffin.

Toronto did have bursts of energy late in the match and had several strong looks at the goal. Two shots in particular were quite good but were stymied by Rimando, who returned to the pitch after missing the previous four games.

It was likely that Toronto may have come into the game a bit fatigued after facing D.C. United on Wednesday. In that game, they fired off 35 shots, against RSL, Toronto had just 10 shots.

Johnson ended up never entering the game at any point, but he wasn’t really missed. It was a fantastic outing by the rest of the team. Imagine how well they would have played if Johnson had made it to that team meeting on time.

RSL will stay at home at host Atlanta United on Friday at 7 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Real Salt Lake matches can be streamed live on or on the KSL TV app.