Sandy • Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis was looking for his team to make a statement after falling flat at home last week.
RSL responded by closing out its three-game homestand with a bang, netting a pair of second-half goals to put away the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“I think we better take a lot from it,” Kreis said after the match. “We should be miserable when we lose and we should be happy when we win. We should feel good about this.”
Real got a big performance from diminutive forward Joao Plata, who assisted on both RSL goals. Plata, by his coach’s assessment, looked “pretty darn rusty” in the first 45 minutes of the match. But after coming out of the locker room following RSL’s ninth scoreless first half of the season, Plata and his teammates wasted little time finding the net.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando blasted a ball into the open field for the speedy Plata to chase down. The Ecuadorian hit a cross from the right side on to the head of midfielder Luis Gil, who banged the ball off the post and over the line in the 47th minute for his second goal of the season.
“I see myself this year around the box more,” Gil said. “It doesn’t have to just be taking shots. In the first half, I didn’t have a shot. But I was around the box and creating plays. That header, making the effort getting into the box, you get rewarded for it.”
Vancouver had its best chance to equalize in the 62nd minute, when forward Corey Hertzog got behind the RSL defense and took a shot that Nat Borchers cleared just before it crossed the line.
“I just followed up the play,” Borchers said. “A lot of times that’s what you have to do to get that shutout.”
Salt Lake sealed the victory just minutes later, when Plata found Javier Morales in the center of the box and the midfielder slotted home his second goal in three matches.
Rimando needed to make just three saves to record the 102nd shutout of his career, crediting it to what he called the team’s best defensive performance of the season.
“When I don’t have to make a lot of saves, it’s my best game,” he said. “That means we’re organized, that means the defense is intact and our whole team is playing defense. If I don’t have to make a single save the rest of the season, I’ll be happy. And I’ll pat myself on the back for that.”
With Vancouver’s defense sitting back for much of the night, RSL’s midfielders found plenty of time and space to work.
“They were on their heels, and we were able to be aggressive,” Borchers said.
The veteran center back added: “We really needed this one for our confidence and just to show our fans that we made a response.”
RSL shuts down Vancouver
O Nick Rimando needs just three saves to record his 102nd career shutout.
• Forward Joao Plata assists on both second-half goals.