Toronto’s Jozy Altidore nearly put the Reds in front early in the game. In the ninth minute, Nick Hagglund’s long throw-in fell to RSL center back Chris Schuler at the top of the penalty area, but a strong wind led the defender to misplay the ball, which bounced through to a waiting Altidore. However, a quick charge from goalkeeper Nick Rimando left Altidore with little time to settle the ball, and the striker managed only a soft chip which was swatted away by Major League Soccer’s all-time shutouts leader.
Toronto’s best scoring opportunity came 23 minutes later. After clearing an RSL corner, Toronto broke quickly on a counter-attack down the left flank, which culminated with Rimando taking down TFC’s Sebastian Giovinco inside the box. Referee Allen Chapman wasted no time in pointing to the spot over Rimando’s protest. But RSL avoided conceding the opening goal on Giovinco’s ensuing penalty kick, which Rimando smothered diving to his right. The penalty save was Rimando’ 29th in his MLS career, the most of any goalkeeper in the league’s history.
RSL saw its many of its most dangerous moments come from corner kicks. Newly acquired designated player Albert Rusnák has assumed corner kick duties after the departure of club mainstay Javier Morales (now with FC Dallas), and the Slovak showed accurate service with good pace. Although RSL failed to find the back of the net, the team’s corner kicks managed to create havoc in the penalty area and generated a few shots.
RSL nearly notched a winner in the 78th minute. Kyle Beckerman received the ball 30 yards from TFC’s goal and placed a chipped pass over the Toronto backline, finding striker Joao Plata, but Plata’s volleyed attempt sailed over the crossbar.
A Tale of Two Rosters
Despite fielding one of its deepest senior rosters in years, RSL found itself handcuffed by player absences: defenders Justen Glad and Danilo Acosta, midfielder Sebastian Saucedo, and forward Brooks Lennon were all away with the U-20 U.S. Men’s National Team, while left back Demar Phillips and center back Aaron Maund were both unavailable due to hamstring injuries. As a result, the Claret-and-Cobalt fielded an unfamiliar center back pairing in Schuler and recently returned David Horst. Despite a few shaky moments, Schuler and Horst (aided by Rimando’s superior individual performance), RSL managed a shutout and remained unbeaten in home openers (5-0-8).
Saturday’s match also saw the MLS debut of Ricardo Velazco (who had previously spent significant time with Real Monarchs, Real Salt Lake’s USL affiliate) and the RSL debut of striker Chad Barrett, each of whom entered as substitutes in the second half.
Toronto, on the other hand, fielded an 18-man roster essentially unchanged from the group that contested MLS Cup 2016 against the Seattle Sounders. But a consistent lineup was not enough to get through Rimando and RSL’s bend-but-don’t-break defense.
Real Salt Lake treks east next Saturday to Toyota Park for a match against the Chicago Fire. RSL defeated Chicago 3-1 last year, and 3-2 in RSL’s last visit to Chicago in 2015.
Toronto FC will continue its season-opening road trip next week with a visit to Talen Energy Stadium against the Philadelphia Union.