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Drilling down on: at RSL 2, New York Red Bulls 0

Fabian Espindola, Paulo Junior

Real Salt Lake forward Fabian Espindola, left, celebrates scoring a goal by putting the ball under his shirt, next to forward Paulo Junior during the first half of an MLS soccer game against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, March 17, 2012, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)


Man of the Match: RSL’s Fabian Espindola opened the scoring and set up another, and his work rate, heart and desire have been unimpeachable over two matches this year. Espindola even ran past his own fullback, Tony Beltran, at one point to track Thierry Henry all the way back to his own end line. That’s above and beyond for a forward.

Packaged for take away:

  • A perfect 6-of-6 points to start the year for Real Salt Lake. That’s with two top men still limited to time off the bench. That’s getting it done.
  • Ned Grabavoy was at his two-way best, another MoM candidate for RSL.
  • You have to like Jason Kreis’ long-term thinking. His team is up 2-0; most coaches would be just giddy, content to safely nurse home a cozy lead. But Alvaro Saborio and Javier Morales need that critical game-fitness and sharpness ... so in they come in the 62nd minute.
  • No goalkeeper will ever cover himself in glory when one slips between the legs. But rookie Ryan Meara hasn’t looked bad in two pro starts, never mind the Red Bulls losses. He made five or six excellent stops or interceptions Saturday.
  • Meara’s one hiccup Saturday, Espindola’s 5-hole special? Meh. Espindola was in all alone with eons of time to shoot. And he thumped it a ton.
  • The Red Bulls lined up in a 4-5-1, with Dax McCarty playing ahead of two holding midfielders (Teemu Tainio and newcomer Victor Palsson.) McCarty is a good linking player but not a creator in those higher areas.
  • Down by a goal, New York manager Hans Backe introduced Mehdi Ballouchy and Kenny Cooper at the break. His side looked more threatening, too … but things broke down in the Red Bulls defense, they went down by two goals and, well, that was that. Because even though the New York did stir up some chances from there, things become difficult to assess because the game looks so different at that point.
  • Mark down Saturday as a second consecutive tame, under-productive night for Red Bulls winger Dane Richards.
  • Red Bulls left back Roy Miller, whose jayvee pass turned into a game-winner for Dallas last week, attempted some too-cutesy back-heel late Saturday at Rio Tinto. It got picked off. So … is Miller trying to book himself a place in Backe’s dog house?
  • Young Jonny Steele came in for RSL in the 84th. Does that sound like an adult film star name, or what?