Real Salt Lake youngster Paulo Jr. had plenty of reasons to smile on Tuesday night.
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Paulo Jr. makes the most of rare opportunity

SANDY, Utah – Luis Gil may have been the marquee name to earn some rare minutes in Real Salt Lake’s CONCACAF Champions League group play finale on Tuesday, but it was another RSL youngster who stole the show.

Brazilian forward Paulo Jr., scored a brace to help push RSL past Cruz Azul 3-1, bringing energy and clever footwork to elude the Cruz Azul defense and get into scoring position on numerous occasions.

“He was really, really good,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “Not just the goals that he scored, but in a lot of plays that he had in the second half – dangerous opportunities where he was running the ball at defenders and getting them on their back feet. It was important for us that he did that, because it allowed us a little bit of a chance to breathe defensively.”

Paulo Jr.'s contributions helped RSL lock up the top seed from Group A heading into next year’s quarterfinals, and gave MLS teams their first group win in the CCL’s brief three-year history. The draw for the next round will be held in November.

“The way Paulo took his goals, it was unbelievable,” teammate Will Johnson said. "He’s got a very bright future."

Rookie Collen Warner also shone brightly in his attacking midfield role. He finished with a goal and assist on the night.

The 16-year-old Gil started the match and was subbed out at the half, and according to his coach, acquitted himself well. He has yet to appear in an MLS match and has only seen time in international friendlies and US Open Cup play in his first season with the club.

“This is his first meaningful match for Real Salt Lake, in front of a packed house that was an away match,” Kreis said. “I thought he performed extremely well for 45 minutes.”