By TYLER GRAY
Fielding a decidedly reserve side did not stop Real Salt Lake from snatching all three points on the road.
With an eye towards the U.S. Open Cup final on Tuesday, RSL head coach Jason Kreis gave his regulars a rest and let the backups off their leash. Forward Devon Sandoval’s early strike was enough as RSL held on to a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night at BC Place.
In the ninth minute, RSL right back Lovel Palmer received the ball out wide and sent it to the top of the six-yard box, just out of the reach of Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. Sandoval rose up and snapped his header down and into the net to put RSL up 1-0 early.
It was all action from that point on as each squad was looking to attack. Time after time, the Whitecaps would throw players forward on the counterattack but RSL’s defense stood strong and, for the first time in a long time, looked unshaken.
Perhaps the Whitecaps’ best opportunity came in the 61st minute when it seemed like the ball fell to four different Whitecaps players. Russell Teibert got the final shot and RSL defender Abdoulie Mansally came up with a huge save. RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella contributed with a clutch save in the 36th minute as well with Teibert again providing the danger.
RSL seemed energized all night and pestered Ousted’s goal consistently, forcing the Vancouver keeper into four saves. It was the type of performance that could give Real Salt Lake some much-needed confidence heading into the final stretch of the season after dropping two matches in a row.
With the victory, RSL still has a puncher’s chance at the Supporter’s Shield now thanks to the effort of its youngsters, who stood strong all match long.
Now the Utah side will turn all of its attention to Tuesday night, looking to secure a trophy and a berth in the CONCACAF Champion’s League, when they welcome in DC United for the U.S. Open Cup final.