With its back against the wall, Real Salt Lake needed a statement game.
It got just that.
Riding goals from Alvaro Saborio and Kyle Beckerman, the Claret-and-Cobalt rolled to a decisive 2-0 victory over Tauro FC in the second match of CONCACAF Champions League action on Tuesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,430 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The result is a crucial one for Salt Lake in Group 2 of the Champions League, pulling RSL into a tie with three points each and even goal differential with Herediano atop the group table.
It also slammed the door on Real’s four-match losing streak, a stretch that dated back to the Utah sides CONCACAF opener against Herediano in Costa Rica on July 31.
About the only dark mark for RSL was Kyle Beckerman’s 72nd minute send off after a bad foul in the center circle. Beckerman’s ejection forced Salt Lake to play down a man, but with a two-goal lead and the match in a fairly safe position, the damage was minimal. RSL’s captain will, however, have to miss the return leg in Panama on Sept. 18.
Real outclassed the visitors from start to finish, outshooting the 2012 Panamanian Clausura champions 17-2, including a 9-1 margin in shots on frame.
Had it not been for some effective goalkeeping from Tauro netminder Alvaro Anzola and an untimely bounce off the right post, the damage could have been far worse than the final margin, especially during a first half that saw the home side firmly entrenched in the attacking third as the Panamanians seemed resigned to defending – and wasting time.
Salt Lake wasted no time in the second half in asserting itself, as Paulo Jr. dribbled through two Tauro defenders and fired a shot from just inside the 18. Anzola blocked the shot with one hand on the ground, but the ball spun from his grasp to the feet of Saborio, who smashed it into the net and sent the Rio Tinto crowd into frenzy.
Just 10 minutes later, Paulo Jr. again got in on the action, sliding a ball out of the left angle to Beckerman, who juked a pair of defenders and blistered a shot from 20 yards out straight on that burned just inside the post on the lower right corner.
RSL continued to attack, and even after going down a man, was still able to move the ball forward as Fabian Espindola, a 71st minute substitute for Paulo Jr., nearly sprung free on multiple occasions.
Salt Lake steps back into Major League Soccer action on Friday, heading east to take on Philadelphia at PPL Park in Philadelphia at 5:30 p.m.