2019 MLS Week 12 Preview — Real Salt Lake (4-1-6) vs. Toronto FC (5-2-4)

Flustered into settling for one point last match, Toronto FC hopes a change of venue leads to better things offensively Saturday when they face Real Salt Lake.

The Reds (5-2-4) were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home Wednesday night by D.C. United. Playing the second game in a stretch of three matches in seven days, United opted to rotate their squad and play a defense-first style while ceding possession.

Toronto FC dominated the match thoroughly – registering a club-record 20 first-half shots and 35 for the game, controlling possession for 78.9 percent of the match, outshooting United 35-3 overall and 12-1 on target – but the scoreline never budged. Jordan Hamilton had the best chance in the 36th minute when he got to a loose ball inside the six-yard box but put his shot off the crossbar.

The Reds, missing striker Jozy Altidore with a heel injury, otherwise failed to show a cutting edge in the final third and were left to rue a three-match winless streak in which they have claimed only one point and scored only one goal.

“I think the only thing that was missing today was a goal,” coach Greg Vanney understated. “They dominated the game from the first minute to the last minute … we had 35 shots, the most ever is 37 … it’s as dominating performance as there has been but we just don’t have the goal to show for it.”

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Real Salt Lake (4-1-6) has won three of its last five matches after starting the season with four points from its first six games. RSL avoided a third straight defeat last Saturday and kept Colorado winless with a 3-2 road victory.

Sam Johnson’s goal in the 53rd minute proved decisive as Real shook off blowing a two-goal lead in conceding right before and right after halftime. Andrew Putna preserved the lead by stopping Kei Kamara’s penalty six minutes after Johnson’s goal, and the Rapids had an apparent equalizer in stoppage time chalked off for offside.

“Andrew did phenomenal. Andrew had a great stop there,” coach Mike Petke said. “To me, the game is always about ebbs and flows. It’s about changing the tide of the game – the feel of the game. Right there, the guys fed off of that and there were some good plays after that.”

Albert Rusnak and Corey Baird accounted for Real’s other two goals in a two-minute span of the first half, with Baird – the 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year – notching his first goal of the season after totaling eight with five assists last year.

With Johnson’s arrival from Liberia as a Designated Player, Joao Plata has become the odd man out in the rotation up front, and there is talk the team may sell the veteran striker to a Liga MX club in Mexico.

Toronto FC is 2-1-0 in the last three matches between the sides after running out to a 3-1 home victory in the lone meeting last year. Altidore had a first-half brace, and after Baird gave RSL a lifeline for a point in the 82nd minute, Tosaint Ricketts sealed the victory with a stoppage-time goal.

(Real Salt Lake group photo courtesy Real Salt Lake official Twitter account)
(Marky Delgado photo courtesy Toronto FC official Twitter account)

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