RSL escapes Toronto with draw

By By Jon Gilbert and By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Real Salt Lake fought through being a man down for more than a half and escaped Toronto one point richer.

RSL extended Toronto FC’s MLS-record scoreless streak to 822 minutes with a 0-0 draw Saturday night.

RSL’s Fabian Espindola was sent off in the 35th minute for introducing his elbow to the face of Toronto defender Marvell Wynne. Wynne was tackled hard by Carey Talley and disliked the play, showing his distaste by getting in Talley’s face.

Espindola showed up moments later. After a short confrontation among several players, Espindola was shown the red card, meaning RSL would play with 10 men for the remainder of the match.

“We put ourselves in a tough position, getting that red card in the first half,” said Real forward Alecko Eskandarian. “That said, we showed a lot of character, a lot of fight, and we got out of here with a result.”

The result was made possible by goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who turned away 12 shots — a Toronto franchise high — to continue TFC’s scoreless agony.

“That’s what happens when you go a man down,” Rimando said. “You’ve got to expect that it’s going to be a battle and that’s what it was.”

Toronto mustered a franchise record of 24 total shots as Real transitioned to a defensive strategy.

Toronto nearly broke open, scoring early when Collin Samuel crossed the ball from the right to striker Andrea Lombardo, whose shot was blocked by Rimando. Lombardo collected the rebound, but Rimando stood strong and blocked the second try from point-blank range.

Samuel and Lombardo teamed up for another dangerous chance in the second half.

This time, Lombardo centered the ball to Samuel in the penalty area, but Rimando turned away Samuel’s 54th minute try for his 10th save of the match.

“They were knocking on the door all day and searching for that elusive goal,” said RSL defender Eddie Pope. “Our backs were against the wall. They just came at us.”

Real survived a steady barrage of shots from Toronto to earn a much-needed point in the standings. Although his team had several chances it did not capitalize on, TFC coach Mo Johnston was satisfied with the Reds’ performance.

“I’m actually speechless,” Johnston said. “I felt the guys gave a great effort. I really feel bad for them, because whatever they try in front of goal, it’s just not going in.”

Johnston refuses to get down on his team albeit its record scoreless stretch, previously held by the 2005 RSL squad that went 557 minutes without a goal.

“(The Toronto players) are disappointed but if they were playing really, really bad, I would maybe tend to look at it and make a lot of changes,” Johnston said. “To be honest with you, they’re not playing that bad.”

Jeff Cunningham made his first appearance for TFC since July 4 against RSL. Cunningham scored in the July 4 meeting, but saw no such luck Saturday night.

The one-point decision inches Real closer to the playoffs. Even though wins are crucial for RSL at this point, the club feels fortunate to leave Toronto with a tie after going a man down so early.

“Certainly we could have crumbled at some point and given a goal at some point,” Pope said. “But we held together?were able to fight?and get out of here with a point.”

RSL wrapped up its four game road trip with the draw. Real has only a short time before it gets back to play.

The Los Angeles Galaxy visit Salt Lake City on Wednesday in a match-up of the bottom two clubs in the Western Conference.

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