A big win snapped a four-game losing streak and put the claret-and-cobalt on top in the CONCACAF Champions LeagueSANDY, Utah -- Real Salt Lake used second-half goals from Alvaro Saborio and Kyle Beckerman to score a decisive 2-0 win over Panama's Tauro FC in CONCACAF Champions League action in front of a 20,430-fan sellout at Rio Tinto Stadium. The result in what was a must-win game for RSL kept the team alive in group 2, and also ended a funk of four straight losses across all competitions.
"It's good. It's always good to win here," said midfielder Will Johnson. "The fans deserve it. But we never get too high and we never get too low."
The first half was all Salt Lake as the hosts controlled possession and generated in chance after chance. Tauro's defense stood on its heads several times to deny RSL goals, and Ned Grabavoy banged a volley off the post in the 36th minute. But the goalkeeper, the woodwork, and some unwelcome time-wasting by Tauro kept the match scoreless going into halftime. RSL outshot the visitors 11-2 in the first period.
"In the first half we were right on the brink of driving ourselves to madness with frustration," said head coach Jason Kreis. "We had so many chances."
But Real wasted no time changing all that after it came out of the locker room. In the 48th minute, Paulo Jr. dribbled through four Tauro defenders and cracked a shot that was well-saved by goalkeeper Alvaro Anzola, but the rebound popped right onto Saborio's foot and he finished easily into the open net to put RSL up 1-0. The goal energized the match, as the time-wasting from Tauro diminished once the Panamanian side found itself behind.
Salt Lake was not content to sit on its laurels and hold on for the win. The Royals kept attacking, and in the 58th minute they again struck paydirt. Paulo Jr. played a square ball to Beckerman, who cut the ball to his left foot, fooled two defenders, and finished low to the corner to put RSL up 2-0. Starting his second match in a row, Paulo Jr. played a significant role in both Real goals, despite not opening his own account.
"He did really well," said Kreis of Paulo. "But I want him to score. We need to try to develop a little more killer instinct in Paulo."
Beckerman kept impacting the match, but not in a positive way. In the 73rd minute, the U.S. international clipped a Tauro player on the thigh going for a 50/50 ball. The Guatemalan referee judged it to be malicious and showed Beckerman a straight red card. RSL finished the match a man down.
"Yes, [Beckerman's ejection] concerns me," said Kreis. "Kyle with his challenge put himself in the position for the referee to make a decision. We've got to talk about not putting ourselves in that position."
While the win is big relief for RSL and puts the team right back in the driver's seat in its Champions League group, there is still work to be done. It will need results in its final two group stage matches, starting with the return match at Tauro. The central defensive tandem of Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers will likely be available for that one, but Beckerman will be serving his suspension.
"Yes, it's a good result but there's still much to be done," said Paulo Jr. "We've got to work even harder now."
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