SANDY -- So many teams enter Real Salt Lake's home stadium with a defensive mindset, looking to slow down and contain the Utah side's precision passing game.
The Vancouver Whitecaps boldly didn't buy into that mindset, turning the match into a wild end-to-end track meet for 90 minutes.
In the end, Salt Lake did what it always seems to do and ground out a thrilling 2-1 victory over the Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday.
"(Vancouver) is a good team; they came in with a lot of confidence," said Kyle Beckerman, RSL's All-Star midfielder. "They made it pretty difficult for us. We definitely had to earn the three points tonight."
With the win, Real became just the second team in Major League Soccer this season to cross the 40-point mark, improving to 13-7-3 (42 points). RSL also closed within one point of league-leading San Jose, which was idle on Friday.
The Whitecaps' refreshing strategy produced an exciting, up-tempo match that saw the ball whipped to all corners of the field.
With Salt Lake pressuring for much of the opening half, it finally got an opening in the 33rd minute, when Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit, who went the full 90 minutes in the MLS All-Star match just 48 hours ago, fouled Beckerman deep in the box, earning RSL a spot kick.
Alvaro Saborio calmly stepped to the spot and converted his 12th goal of the season by slotting the kick to the left side of the goal. Saborio is 11-for-11 at the spot during his RSL career.
The converted penalty would stand as the halftime score.
While Real was clearly leading the tempo in the first half, the second 45 minutes turned dramatic.
The Whitecaps leveled the match at 1-1 in the 52nd minute when Camilo Sanvezzo played the ball through to an onrushing Darren Mattocks, and Mattocks deftly chipped a shot over the top of RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who had started to move out in an attempt to make a stop.
Vancouver's goal rapidly changed the tide of the match, with the Whitecaps taking firm command for the next few minutes, including having a blistering 18-yard shot go off the left post.
"Sometimes that happens where you're about to score, and then suddenly you get score on," Beckerman said. "You just have to respond to it."
As quickly as it had switch, the momentum just as quickly returned to the home side. After Ned Grabavoy, who had substituted in just moments before, played the ball to midfielder Javier Morales on the deep right corner of the 18, Morales lofted a brilliant cross up over the defense to Saborio, who powerfully headed the ball home to put Real back in the lead.
Real boss Jason Kreis called Saborio's goal "spectacular."
With the match rapidly swinging from end to end, it took another bizarre turn in the 76th minute when Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon handled the ball outside the box to stop Fabian Espindola from scoring. The referee judged that Cannon denied a goal-scoring opportunity with the infraction and sent Cannon off, leaving Vancouver with just 10 men for the final quarter hour.
Despite the man-advantage, the Whitecaps continued to pressure for the equalizer, trying to swing the ball long and high over the Salt Lake defense and forcing Rimando into several tough saves.
"(Rimando) made the big stops," Kreis said. "He made the absolute critical stops we needed him to make in the second half."