SANDY, Utah -- It was a miserable night for soccer in terms of weather at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night - cold, windy, with a considerable period of rain/snow mix.
And there's nowhere else Real Salt Lake would rather be.
RSL shrugged off their recent underwhelming showing on the road with a resounding 2-1 win over Toronto FC to get their season back on track. 12,659 hardy souls braved the elements to watch The Royal Army get only their second win of the season. The win came in a much more dominating fashion than the scoreline indicates - the home team were the aggressor from the opening whistle to the final one, and they dominated possession throughout.
Having such lopsided possession was made that much more impressive by the fact that RSL were outnumbered 5 to 4 in the midfield by Toronto, who played a 4-5-1 for the majority of the match.
"Our movement was great tonight," said Andy Williams, who had a goal and an assist. "Our forwards and our midfield were outstanding and our outside backs helped us out a lot too."
A big factor in Salt Lake's midfield dominance came from perhaps an unlikely source: Rookie Collen Warner. Trying to fill the big shoes of Javier Morales who missed the match with strep throat, Warner left his mark on the game with accurate passing, breaking down opponents 1-on-1, and working hard on the defensive end. After the game, his contributions were singled out by his teammates and his coach.
"I thought [Collen] was spectacular tonight," said Kreis. "I'm really, really pleased with him. You put him in what is arguably the most important position on the field for us, and I thought he showed up in some great places, ran at defenders, got behind defenders, and did a lot of very, very nice things."
Another player whose effort stood out as a difference-maker for RSL was hulking Colombian center back Jamison Olave. His goal kicked off the scoring for Real, but what made his effort noteworthy was that he suffered what appeared to be a serious head injury only two minutes before.
"I went to head the ball and I collided with another defender", said Olave. "When we knocked heads, the lights went out, everything went black for 20 or 30 seconds."
"I thought he played even better [after the collision], so maybe we'll knock him out before every game", joked Kreis. "But he was a monster tonight."
If nothing else, tonight's game does two important things for Salt Lake: It gets them a much-needed three points in the stacked Western Conference, and it gives them confidence in their play as they continue their homestand.
"We were running the risk of becoming not so positive about the way we're playing", noted Kreis. "In the locker room, we feel good about the way we've played. But sometimes you need results to bolster that confidence, and tonight that's the best thing."
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