TORONTO -- The Curse of Canada is at last over for Real Salt Lake.
And it ended in dramatic fashion.
With Claret-and-Cobalt boss Jason Kreis electing to shake -up both his starting XI and tactical formation, midfielder Yordany Alvarez hit a blistering shot from distance on the right side late in the first half to lift Salt Lake to a 1-0 victory over Toronto FC on Saturday morning at BMO Field.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and central defender Nat Borchers also came up with a trio of dramatic saves in the dying moments of the match, as the Reds threw everything forward in a desperate attempt for an equalizer.
The result marks the first-ever victory by the Utah side across the northern border, and keeps RSL in solo position atop the MLS table with 33 points (10-5-3).
"It's not something that we're overly concerned with," Kreis said his squad's first win in Canada. "It would be another thing if we had a team that knew how to win in other places and a team that has gotten enough wins over the years to be considered a successful team. Maybe then it's a different situation but we haven't been concerned with it. But having done it now I guess it feels good."
With both fixture congestion and absences playing a part, Kreis moved RSL from its traditional diamond into a 4-3-3 formation with defensive midfielders Alvarez and Beckerman both starting and playing a little wider than normal, while Olmes Garcia slid closer to the top into a right forward position to create a faster speed of play and additional numbers.
The experiment paid dividends in the 45th minute when outside defender Tony Beltran made a headsy play to get the ball to Garcia, who found Alvarez alone just outside the right corner of the box.
Alaverez lined up and hit a rocket across the goalmouth and just inside the far post to put RSL ahead of bunkering Toronto 1-0 at halftime.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men in the 78th minute when Beltran and Toronto's Doneil Henry were sent off for a minor skirmish, after Beltran defended himself from being kicked in the ribs by TFC's Luis Silva.
"I love Toronto. They have great fans. They have some good one-liners out there and you know the goalkeepers have to sit there and listen to all the fans," Rimando said. "They are good to play in front of, they have some good fans. The field was a bit slow for me this time. It seemed like a hot heavy slow field. We couldn't get the rhythm that we wanted to. You could tell the game was slow, I don't know if it's because the weather or the field just didn't take the water in. But I love playing up here it's a great city with great support and the fans are awesome."
Real also became the first MLS team to reach 10 wins during the 2013 campaign, and pulled three points ahead of idle Portland atop the league table. Salt Lake is one of just three teams (along with the Timbers and Sporting Kansas City) to have a positive goal-differential in road matches, sitting at plus-2 with a 4-4-1 mark away from Rio Tinto.