Real Salt Lake opened up the 2017 season with a 0-0 draw against Toronto FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday afternoon in Sandy. TFC controlled the first 20 minutes of the match as they pressed for a goal and RSL was under the gun. Nick Rimando’s heroics bailed the Claret-and-Cobalt out as he palmed away a free ball in the box that Toronto forward Jozy Altidore attempted to chip over him. Rimando had to bail himself out when he tripped Sebastian Giovinco in the 29th minute in the box and the Reds were awarded a penalty kick by referee Allen Chapman. Rimando plead his case for two minutes before he guessed correctly and stonewalled Giovinco’s PK attempt to keep the match level.
RSL seemed content on the afternoon to fire from distance as Albert Rusnak, Jordan Allen, Joao Plata, and Ricardo Velazco all had a go but came up empty. RSL’s best chance for a goal came when Kyle Beckerman fond Joao Plata behind the Toronto defense but Plata was unable to put the ball on frame. The match ended in a draw despite some nervous minutes late in the match as Toronto found chances on the break and on counter-attacks but Chris Schuler and David Horst snuffed out the chances to ensure a point for the home side in their season-opener.
(You can listen or watch Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar’s thoughts on the match in the video above.)
Here are the players I thought stood out for Real Salt Lake this afternoon:
DF Chris Schuler – Schuler looked like his former self as he stepped up to shut down Toronto’s vaunted attacking duo of Giovinco and Altidore. He has dealt with injuries throughout his career but today showed when he is fit, he’s among the finest centerbacks in all of Major League Soccer.
FW Joao Plata – Plata kept popping up in dangerous spots during the match and had the best look at goal of either side when Beckerman sprang him one-on-one against Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Plata isn’t afraid to take on bigger defenders and while he wasn’t able to use his speed to out-run any Toronto defenders, he still was a pest all match long.
DF David Horst – Horst is an MLS veteran who is on his second round with Real Salt Lake. He showed why the club brought him during the offseason as he was able to break up passes and intercept Giovinco whenever the Reds were looking to break on the counter-attack. He will be a guy who will play plenty this season for the Claret-and-Cobalt.
MF Albert Rusnak – not a bad showing for his MLS debut. He was playing at a breakneck speed early in the match but settled down and found the game. He connected well with Joao Plata and Jordan Allen but wasn’t as in-sync with Yura Movsisyan. He did link up decently with Chad Barrett after Barrett was subbed into the match.
Real Salt Lake hits the road next as they head to the Windy City for a date with Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire next Saturday. First kick is scheduled for 12 p.m. MT. You can catch the action on KMYU with David James and Brian Dunseth on the call.