Toronto • Yordany Alvarez's goal seconds before halftime helped an undermanned Real Salt Lake extend its club-record winning streak to seven games in a scrappy, card-filled 1-0 victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday.
Head coach Jason Kreis' gamble to make changes to an RSL lineup that topped the Carolina RailHawks midweek in U.S. Open Cup action paid dividends in first-half stoppage time when Alvarez rifled a goal past Toronto FC keeper Joe Bendik.
With both sides resigned to entering halftime goalless, RSL's Olmes Garcia laid off to Alvarez at the top of the box before the Cuban produced his side-netting blast from the corner of the box.
"A lot of the questions are answered in matches," Kreis said of his lineup. "Our belief in our depth continues to grow."
Already without Alvaro Saborio (international duty), Salt Lake's bench boss rested defenders Chris Wingert and Carlos Salcedo, in addition to midfielders Khari Stephenson and Ned Grabavoy. Despite going without Saborio, Kreis left Robbie Findley out of his lineup with an eye toward Wednesday's game at home to Philadelphia.
"I think everybody's heading in the right direction," Kreis said. "I've always said that's what gets you results in this league, and I continue to think so."
That, and the ability to see games out in difficult environments on the road, especially after going down to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining.
Bad blood boiled over in the 79th minute when Tony Beltran dealt TFC's Luis Silva a two-handed shove. That kicked off a two-minute melee that saw Toronto's Doneil Henry sent off and Beltran issued a second caution.
"When Silva was on the ground he lashed out and kicked Beltran," Kreis said of the dust-up. "We have to adjust our own situation and not be too concerned with them and say, 'Hey, Tony, that's not the right reaction.' "
The ejections saw Salt Lake drop 10 men behind the ball to preserve its single-goal lead.
With Toronto knocking on the door in second-half stoppage time, Salt Lake needed a trio of match-saving defensive plays to see things out.
Toronto's first chance came when Jeremy Brockie headed down a cross at the near post that Nick Rimando kept out with a reflex save.
Brockie had a second chance in the 94th minute after out-jumping Rimando to win a 50-50 battle that Nat Borchers cleared off the line.
"The ball checked up on the dry field," Rimando said. "Nat was there to rescue to me. … It's not just me making saves."
Rimando made a final save off a corner seconds before full time when TFC's Steven Caldwell failed to make good contact at the back post.
Brockie was also involved in a bit of first-half controversy after TFC's appeals for a penalty went unheard minutes before Alvarez's opener. Borchers appeared to clip Brockie after pushing it around RSL's center back in the 42nd minute.
Toronto had another chance to open the scoring just after the start when Bobby Convey skipped in alone only to see his shot go wide.
The win put Salt Lake three points clear atop the Western Conference on 33 points, ahead of Portland and FC Dallas.
Real Salt Lake 1, Toronto FC 0
O Yordany Alvarez scores the game's only goal in first-half stoppage time.
• RSL plays without forwards Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley, defenders Chris Wingert and Carlos Salcedo, and midfielders Khari Stephenson and Ned Grabavoy.
• Rick Rimando makes two saves in second-half stoppage time, and Nat Borchers makes another save by clearing the ball off the goal line.
Real Salt Lake 1 Toronto FC 0
Real Salt Lake 1 0 1
Toronto FC 0 0 0
First half » 1, Real Salt Lake, Alvarez 1 (Garcia, Beltran), 45th minute.
Second half » None.
Goalies » Real Salt Lake, Nick Rimando; Toronto FC, Joe Bendik.
Yellow Cards • Garcia, Real Salt Lake, 25th Palmer, Real Salt Lake, 34th Koevermans, Toronto FC, 37th Richter, Toronto FC, 60th Findley, Real Salt Lake, 79th Caldwell, Toronto FC, 90th+.
Red Cards • Beltran, Real Salt Lake, 79th; Henry, Toronto FC, 79th.
Referee • Chris Penso. Assistant Referees • Peter Manikowski. Matthew Nelson. 4th Official • Mark Kadlecik.
Attendance » 20,841 (20,000)
Real Salt Lake • Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Nat Borchers, Lovel Palmer, Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Yordany Alvarez, Joao Plata (Ned Grabavoy, 62nd), Devon Sandoval (Kenny Mansally, 82nd), Olmes Garcia (Robbie Findley, 69th).
Toronto FC • Joe Bendik, Doneil Henry, Ryan Richter, Darren O'Dea, Steven Caldwell, Matias Laba, Jonathan Osorio, Jeremy Brockie, Jeremy Hall (Justin Braun, 59th), Bobby Convey (Reggie Lambe, 86th), Danny Koevermans (Luis Silva, 55th).