Playing in just their second game at Rio Tinto Stadium this season, Real Salt Lake were happy to be home. But they were perhaps just as pleased with rookie Collen Warner's breakout performance in a 2-1 defeat of Toronto.
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“I thought he was spectacular tonight," RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. "Very, very promising for him, and for us.”
The hosts enjoyed the run of play on Saturday night, maintaining possession for long stretches in the midfield despite being outnumbered as Toronto played a 4-5-1. In particular, Warner looked comfortable in his second start in the central attacking role in the absence of Javier Morales, who missed the match with strep throat.
“I was nervous again, but I had another game under my belt—another start,” Warner said, adding that he thought he played well with Williams and that their game has “similar movements.”
The midfield duo switched positions on the field during the match, with Williams moving in centrally and Warner floating out to the right.
The Claret-and-Cobalt managed to put away two goals in the first half before coasting to victory. Though Toronto did pull back a late goal, all-in-all RSL looked to be a very aggressive, polished team on the night.
Several players had decent performances, including Alvaro Saborio, who had an assist on the opening goal and was all over the pitch creating headaches for the Toronto backline.
Left back Tony Beltran was also effective at taking advantage of the acres of space that the Reds afforded him on the outside. He parlayed this into an assist to Williams just before the break. Williams and ‘keeper Nick Rimando were also superb in the win.
Despite the overwhelming dominance in possession, there were a couple of minor concerns on the night, one being the narrow margin of victory. This team has seen a disparity over the opening few matches between the quality of its play and its position in the standings.
Although Toronto seemed to be competitive on Saturday, a late penalty kick had the visitors salivating at the possibility of an equalizer in stoppage time. Luckily for RSL, the Reds never created a serious threat.
Kreis also said he is becoming increasingly concerned about the number of penalty calls against his team this season. De Rosario’s PK was the fourth against RSL in six games. Though Kreis conceded the ball did make contact with Beckerman’s hand on Saturday, he was skeptical the offense warranted a call.
RSL have yet to earn a PK themselves, and Kreis said he thought his side deserved one in the first half.
“I’m a little more concerned with the call that we didn’t get in the first half when Collen Warner got fouled in the box,” Kreis said.