The odds were stacked against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night. Of course, like Toronto FC, they had some heavy legs from their mid-week Champions League group match. But RSL were also coming off the emotional letdown of giving up a two-goal league against Cruz Azul.
They were facing a TFC side that has proven to be an excellent team at home this season, with their only loss at BMO Field coming last week at the hands of the New York Red Bulls. Perhaps more importantly, Toronto was desperately in need of a win to help its pursuit of a playoff position.
In previous years Real Salt Lake may have buckled under those conditions, but this RSL squad is different from any other in the past. They fought hard to gain a point in a 0-0 draw and showed a scrappy quality despite the tired legs.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
“I was very, very pleased with the result here, away, on what has been a very difficult road trip," Kreis said to a local radio station after the match. "It’s been difficult traveling that many miles.”
Perhaps the most active player in Toronto was forward Fabian Espindola, who continually put pressure on the TFC backline. Espindola had what was arguably the best chance of the night for either side just seconds after the halftime break. He sidestepped goalkeeper Stefan Frei and fired wide of an empty net. Despite the miss, Espindola’s effort on the night was tremendous.
Real Salt Lake did not show its customary finesse and possession against the Reds in this one. That was mostly a factor of the need to match Toronto’s work rate and toughness in the midfield.
“We usually keep better possession in the midfield, but sometimes it’s gonna happen on the road," explained right back Tony Beltran. "It’s gonna be a scrappy game where you just have to battle it out for 90 minutes. But those points are often even more rewarding.”
Perhaps the highlight of this workmanlike effort came during several “scrums” inside their own penalty area. RSL may have struggled to clear the initial ball in the box from Toronto FC, but RSL threw their bodies in front of the play to neutralize these opportunities.
“I think collectively as a group it was a great defensive effort,” Beltran said. “They have some very dangerous players including De Rosario, and because of that we just had to be sharp and alert, and we did that.”