Sandy • Real Salt Lake was in need of a bit of magic.
For more than 45 minutes Tuesday night, RSL pounded and pounded at the Tauro FC defense, only to see shots deflected by quick, agile hands or the woodwork.
Then, with three minutes gone in the second half, RSL forward Paulo Junior provided a sudden burst of magic. And in doing so sparked a 2-0 victory to keep Salt Lake alive in the CONCACAF Champions League competition.
“We did ourselves right tonight,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium, Junior dipped and darted and weaved his way through the Panamanians’ defense.
Forty yards later, Junior’s shot was deflected, but Alvaro Saborio was right there to clean up the rebound and give RSL a badly needed goal, to roaring approval of 20,430 spectators.
“It was just one on one,” Junior said through an interpreter. “Another came … and I just took the shot and Saborio was there.”
The goal brought Tauro out of its defensive shell and RSL cashed in as midfielder Kyle Beckerman slotted a second goal home 10 minutes later.
“In the first half, we were right on the brink of driving ourselves to madness,” said Kreis about the goalless period. “It was good to see the guys stick with it. It was a simple matter of finishing out the game.”
On tired legs from being 4,000 feet higher in altitude than Panama City, TFC could offer nothing in return but hard fouls.
A contrast in styles, RSL enjoyed most of the possession and put shot after shot on target.
Meanwhile, Tauro, under constant pressure, took every chance it could to delay play, mostly by flopping and looking for the occasional counterattack.
Alvaro’s goal changed that defensive ploy.
“They came to get a draw,” RSL defender Will Johnson said.
“It was pretty clear what they wanted to do. Once we were able to get the first goal, it was a completely different game.”
After losing its CCL opener at Herediano on July 31, Real Salt Lake desperately needed a victory. A draw wouldn’t do.
“I think we’re in a good spot, but I wouldn’t go any farther with that,” Kreis said.
Unfortunately for RSL, it will be without Beckerman in the rematch Sept. 18 as the Real captain earned a red card for a tackle late in the second half.
RSL started the game with energy and aggressive offensive intentions.
“I feel like we were the team who was pushing things for most of the 90 minutes,” Kreis said. “Having said that, the ejection cost us a complete match.”
Salt Lake dominated the game overall. The only thing missing in the first half was a goal, which RSL missed by a whisker on several occasions. Real outshot Tauro 11-2 in the opening 45 minutes and forced four saves.
In the 36th minute, Ned Grabavoy one-timed a rebound off the Panamanian post from about 20 yards out. Three minutes later, Javier Morales had two close chances blocked.
Storylines RSL gets breakthrough win
R Real Salt Lake’s domination of Tauro FC on Tuesday pays off in the 48th minute with a goal by Alvaro Saborio.
• Saborio’s goal is set up by a weaving 40-yard run through the Tauro FC defense by Real Salt Lake forward Paulo Junior.
• Kyle Beckerman scores RSL’s second goal in the 58th minute, but is red-carded in the 72nd minute and will miss the rematch Sept. 18.