MLS • Win vaults Real to top of Western Conference standings.
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Sandy • Javier Morales drove the ball right into the wall of green jerseys, and somehow it made its way to the right corner of the 6-yard box and the foot of Kyle Beckerman.
The Real Salt Lake captain's terrific goal in the 41st minute of Saturday's game at Rio Tinto Stadium gave RSL a lead over the Seattle Sounders and, eventually, a win that moved the team to the top of the table.
That's right. Halfway through the season, a few short months after trading away three all-star caliber players, RSL is in first.
And it's a position that hardly surprises Beckerman.
"I think the foundation has been there," the midfielder said after a 2-0 win over Seattle, and RSL's sixth victory in its last eight games. "We just continue to try to build off that foundation. Whether you bring in new players, young players, old players, guys see what we've done the past couple years and they want to buy into what we've got going on."
One of those young players, 19-year-old center back Carlos Salcedo, made the fourth start of his MLS career and helped keep a dangerous Seattle trio of Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle quiet.
Seattle came into the match as the hottest team in Major League Soccer, but RSL cooled the Sounders. Seattle didn't even register a shot until the 74th minute, and mustered only one more after that.
"We didn't let them get in behind us, which is where they're most dangerous," said defender Nat Borchers, who saw a goal taken away from him on an offside call in the second half.
The shutout was a deserved reward for a defense Kreis said has made significant progress this season, despite injuries on the back line.
"A month ago I told you we were giving away too many clear-cut chances," he said. "Even though we weren't getting scored on a bunch, I felt like we were living on the edge and living on a lot of Rimando fantastic saves."
While the back line clamped down, Beckerman said the team's offensive breakthrough over the past two months has been good for the defense.
With Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso on the field Saturday, RSL found plenty of room to work.
While Seattle's offense sputtered, Salt Lake took 17 shots and made Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning save four of them.
After coming out of the locker room, RSL wasted little time providing the dagger.
Robbie Findley took a pass from Morales and launched it at Gspurning, who saved it. But the rebound found its way back to Findley, courtesy of Alvaro Saborio, and Findley buried his second effort to double RSL's score.
The goal sealed the win and RSL's hold on first place.
Kreis, however, won't take much from that.
"Realistically, I looked at us being a team that was going to be learning the whole season, a team that was going to be hopefully improving the whole season, and have been fairly unconcerned with our placement in the standings," he said.
"Just because we're first now, I'm not going to start concerning myself and being happy about that."
RSL 2, Sounders 0
R Kyle Beckerman scores first, followed by Robbie Findley, to lift Real to the win.