SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis put an extra emphasis this week on his team getting back to the root of their success: hard work.
That extra focus on putting in extra effort was never more evident than in the way RSL posted their 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Real played their regular possession-oriented attack, stringing passes together back and forth across the Rapids' defense, but struggled to create any clear scoring opportunities – there simply weren’t many openings.
"I thought Colorado was very, very disciplined and difficult for us to break down. Sometimes you need to score goals in different ways," said coach Jason Kreis. "… Sometimes when you play a team that is very compact, very organized it does take a given emphasis to win the ball on their half and move quickly toward the goal."
That is where the hard work came in. Forwards Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola pressured the Colorado defense any time they had the ball. They were pesky. They were annoying. They were everywhere, and they were effective.
"We know that we are at a best when we are really pressing in the game, and that starts with our forwards," said Kreis. "When they are willing to chase down lost causes, when they are willing to go pressure any of the four defenders, when they are willing to make 30- or 40-yard runs to do that, it means that everybody on our team gets to step up the field and typically we win it (the ball) in their half. And as I said earlier, when we win it in our opponents half, often times we create good chances."
Saborio benefited from Espindola's work on the game's first goal as he had an open-net tap-in in the 32nd minute following the Argentine's deflection of an attempted clearance by Colorado 'keeper Matt Pickens. While Sabo was the beneficiary on the first goal, it was his work that ultimately led to Will Johnson's 89th-minute goal to put the finishing touch on another Rocky Mountain Cup fin.
"It was just good pressure by Sabo," said Johnson. "We saw a chance as the ball went to the center back, and we just went and pressed. I thought we could try and take it there, and then Sabo did a great job of winning it. It popped right to me and I took a touch and just tried to hit it hard and low to the back post, and fortunately it went in and we could all take a sigh of relief."
The rest of RSL took the example of their guys up top and played with the same work-rate they have been known for to finish off the shutout.
But it all started up top.