Santa Clara, Calif. • Somehow, Real Salt Lake found a way.
When Chris Wondolowski, an MVP and the league’s best scorer a year ago, put his foot on at least three balls inside the box that should have been goals, somehow they went wide.
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando never even saw one strike, his view blocked by three men in front of him, but somehow he got his fingertips on the ball and pushed it to the crossbar.
Somehow, after Alvaro Saborio slotted home his second goal of the night a sellout crowd of 10,525 at Buck Shaw Stadium went silent.
RSL walked out underneath a scoreboard that somehow beamed with a 2-0 season-opening win on Sunday night.
“I don’t know how you walk away from that with anything other than pleasure,” coach Jason Kreis said.
RSL came into the season with plenty of question marks but provided a resounding answer in its first showing of the season: This is a team that can still compete with the best in Major League Soccer.
San Jose made things difficult to start with.
The winners of the 2012 Supporters’ Shield, the Earthquakes were aggressive and seemed to be knocking on the door of a goal for the entire first half.
“They had to weather some storms,” Kreis said. “San Jose was very dangerous for a 10-15 minute period in the first half. They’re always going to be dangerous when they have Wondolowski on the end of crosses.”
In the 14th minute, Wondolowski volleyed a shot off RSL defender Tony Beltran that went just wide of the net. On the ensuing corner kick, Wondolowski blasted the shot that Rimando found a way to save.
“I didn’t see it at all,” said Rimando, who recorded his 100th career shutout Sunday. “There were like three dudes in front of me. I just reacted to it and was lucky enough to get a fingertip on it.”
RSL’s back line, a foursome that had never played together in a game, struggled early. Left back Kenny Mansally in particular looked troublesome as he gave away two corner kicks on poor touches early.
But Kreis stuck with Mansally coming out of the locker room.
“I had an itchy finger,” Kreis said. “I considered making a move there. But I decided patience could be a virtue. ... I’m really, really pleased with his reaction. It’s not easy to be away and make a few blunders in the first and come back the way he did.”
Kreis could very well have been talking about his entire team.
RSL settled in nicely in the second half. When forward Joao Plata came on for Robbie Findley in the second half, the momentum swung completely Salt Lake’s way.
Plata settled a ball with a perfect touch and then sent a pass over the top of the defense to a streaking Saborio for the game’s first goal in the 71st minute. The goal ended a 493-minute scoreless streak for RSL dating back to last season.
In the 85th minute, midfielder Kyle Beckerman found Saborio in the box and the Costa Rican beat the keeper to the far post to put the game away.
Storylines RSL dodges bullets in win
R RSL’s Alvaro Saborio scores two goals, on assists from Joao Plata and Kyle Beckerman.
• San Jose has several scoring chances early but can’t convert.