Sandy • The weather wasn’t perfect, the stadium wasn’t quite full.
But it was the home opener.
And that means Real Salt Lake and its fans went home plenty happy.
Fabian Espindola and Luis Gil scored on each side of halftime to lead RSL to a 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls in front of 16,738 fans at chilly and windswept Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night, keeping the team unbeaten in all eight season openers — it’s 4-0-4 — since it was born in 2005.
“We’re just happy that we got another result,” defender Tony Beltran said. “Two good games against two big-market teams. It’s a good statement coming out this way and starting the league with those wins.”
Certainly, it was far from a flawless game.
Coach Jason Kreis said his players showed some fatigue in the later stages, and that the Red Bulls probably deserved to score given the pressure they applied in the final 20 minutes. He said he would have graded his team’s performance a “B, maybe even more down toward a B-minus.”
But the team did improve to 2-0-0 after its season-opening win at the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, extended its unbeaten streak against the Red Bulls to six games, and effectively nullified New York’s Thierry Henry, whose best two chances were stopped by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“In the first half, they were obviously trying to counterattack,” RSL’s Ned Grabavoy said. “But I didn’t really feel like they were ever that dangerous.”
And by the time the Red Bulls were dangerous, it was too late.
Espindola scored between the legs of rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara in the 39th minute, at the end of a breakaway ignited by a brilliant chip pass over the defense from fellow forward Paulo Jr. He said the goal was “a mistake” by the beleaguered Red Bulls back line, which played a high line all night long and paid for it.
The tireless Argentine helped create the goal for Gil in the 58th minute, too, taking a pass in the box from rookie midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and firing at Meara.
The keeper parried the shot, but it fell right to Gil, who fired past the fallen Meara and between scrambling defenders.
“It was just following through with the play,” Gil said. “Fabi made a good play, and you just have to finish it out.”
Both teams were missing key players for various reasons, but RSL dominated possession and control of the game when it still mattered, sending the Red Bulls to their second straight loss to start the season. Kreis said it was a “pretty solid effort” for RSL, but added that his team still needs to get better in several areas.
“I do think it needs to be said, we need to continue to improve,” he said, “because tonight was certainly nowhere near perfect. The effort was great, but … lots of areas for improvement.”
Storylines RSL moves to 2-0 this season
R IN SHORT • RSL stays unbeaten in home openers, getting its second win to start the season.
KEY STAT • RSL’s Fabian Espindola has scored five goals in six career games against New York.
KEY MOMENT • RSL’s Luis Gil fires home the rebound of a blocked shot for the final margin in the 58th minute.