Jean Alexandre goes off to lift his team back into the win column.SANDY, Utah -- Jean Alexandre had his first MLS goal and his first MLS assist to Fabian Espindola as Real Salt Lake put together a solid performance to defeat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 in front of 15,174 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Salt Lake enjoyed a tremendous advantage in possession throughout the night, denying Vancouver the chance to get much going.
Real dominated possession in the early part of the game with Vancouver content to counterattack in those moments when they did have the ball. Still, neither team managed to take a shot for the first 15 minutes. In the 16th minute, Kyle Beckerman took a healthy cut after a free kick was not cleared by the Caps, but his shot went just over the bar. Two minutes later, Chris Wingert took a long-distance shot from his left back position that missed just wide of the near post.
In the 21st minute, a free kick by Nelson Gonzalez found the head of Chris Schuler, but his flick towards goal was a bit too high to break the scoreless draw.
In the 32nd minute, RSL finally managed to break the deadlock. Beckerman threaded a nice ball through to Alexandre who used his body to hold off one defender and then did a slick stepover to beat another, then rolled the ball by the helpless Joe Cannon to put Salt Lake up 1-0.
The rejuvenated RSL kept applying pressure, and just a minute later Tony Beltran nearly had a career first goal of his own. After a beautiful through ball by Espindola, Beltran found himself in alone on goal and took a low, hard shot. This time Cannon was up to the task and made a good save on Beltran’s effort.
The match continued to be all Real’s, and Espindola nearly doubled the advantage in the 39th minute. Going one-on-one with Jay DeMerit, he cut to his left and hit a low shot that went through DeMerit’s legs, but Cannon got down to make the diving save.
The Whitecaps didn’t get their first shot of the match until the 42nd minute when Camilo took a weak long-range effort that did not trouble goalkeeper Nick Rimando in the least. Camilo had a chance at long-range redemption just minutes later off a free kick. This one was hit with much more power, but Rimando made a good save to preserve the 1-0 lead going into the half.
Vancouver made wholesale changes to its midfield at the half, bringing on two substitutes and moving to a 3-5-2 on offense as they searched for more than the 30% possession they had in the first half. But Salt Lake picked up where it left off as a header by Beckerman in the 52nd minute off a Gonzalez corner kick went just over the crossbar.
In the 56th minute, Ned Grabavoy had a deflection from an Espindola shot fall dead right in front of him just 16 yards from goal. Grabavoy curled a shot toward the far post, but Cannon made a fully-extended diving save to keep the Caps’ deficit at one.
Salt Lake had another great chance to add to the lead in the 73rd minute. A great ball over the top checked up for Alexandre who attempted to lob it over Cannon, but the Vancouver goalkeeper was able to get a mitt up and swat the ball away. It fell right to Espindola who tried a lob of his own, but he nudged it just wide of the far post.
They finally put the game away in the 79th minute as Alexandre won a ball in the midfield and while being pulled down, he poked a ball through the defense, hitting Espindola in stride. There was nothing Cannon could do as the Argentine went in on him alone, sticking the ball just inside the right post to give RSL the two-goal cushion.
Vancouver had its best chance of the night just after the goal as Bilal Duckett got his head on a ball from inside the six, but Rimando somehow got a hand on it. Alain Rochat also had a well-struck shot in the closing minutes and again Rimando made a huge save to preserve the clean sheet.
Salt Lake has little time to ponder on tonight’s result as they must travel to Columbus for a Wednesday night match against the Crew. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps will pay a visit to their rivals just over the border as they will take on the Sounders in Seattle.
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