Sandy • When Javier Morales decides to hang up the boots, he’ll most likely have a treasure trove of video highlights.
Near the top of the list should be his assist to Alvaro Saborio midway through the second half of Real Salt Lake’s 2-1 victory against Vancouver, a pass that electrified the more than 18,000 spectators inside Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night.
“Javier … served in a really terrific ball, but the effort by Sabo was spectacular,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “To get up that high and hammer it home down was simply splendid.”
The RSL midfielder gained control outside the 18-yard box in the 58th minute and lofted a on-the-money rainbow to Saborio, who stepped back and leaped higher than his defender to head the ball down and into the net for his second goal of the night and 13th of the season.
“I knew that Sabo is on fire,” Morales said. “So I try to look at him at the second post and try to bend the ball. He was there. It felt good off my foot.”
Not only did the goal give Real (13-7-3) a lead, it also quieted — for the moment — a furious Whitecaps attack. Vancouver (9-7-7), which had tied the game in the 52nd minute, hit the post a minute later.
And it only took a few minutes for Vancouver to recover and attack following Saborio’s goal. The Whitecaps forced RSL keeper Nick Rimando into several outstanding reaction saves.
In addition, Rimando was also a little lucky as Vancouver’s attackers, specifically Camilo Sanvezzo and goal scorer Darren Mattocks, missed several open chances.
“Vancouver, as I said the whole week, is a very, very good team,” Kreis said. “They play very attractive soccer. Tonight was lacking a little bit of energy on both sides. It was really, really hot out there. I thought it livened up in the second half.”
Friday’s victory also extended RSL’s lead over third-place Vancouver in the Western Conference to eight points. Real also pulled to within a point of conference leader San Jose, which plays Saturday.
“It was a grind-out game,” RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “These days of summer, they’re tough. For that game to become three points for us instead of one was big for us.”
Real Salt Lake had a difficult time establishing a flow against Vancouver in the first half. With both teams plagued by hard early fouls, play turned static at best.
Real finally broke into the scoring in the 34th minute as Saborio calmly slotted a penalty kick by sprawling Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon. RSL was awarded the penalty when Jay DeMerit took down Beckerman in the box. Not only did Demerit wildly fling his arm across Beckerman’s face, the Whitecaps defender also hit the ball with his fist.
Cannon was red-carded late in the second half for handling the ball outside the 18-yard box. Cannon, who saved his team despite the card, couldn’t be blamed as Fabian Espindola was bearing down on his goal during a breakaway.
Storylines RSL 2, Whitecaps 1
R In the 58th minute, Alvaro Saborio heads a pass from Javier Morales into the Vancouver goal to give RSL a 2-1 lead.
• Saborio opens the scoring in the 34th minute with a penalty kick. The RSL forward is 11 of 11 in PKs.