SANDY, Utah -- After a scoreless draw two days ago, Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis was hoping tonight his team would show some teeth on offense. Safe to say the 3-0 win over the Portland Timbers was "mission accomplished."
Alvaro Saborio recorded a hat trick, doing it all in a stellar 15-minute period, to pace Salt Lake in front of 16,444 relieved fans at Rio Tinto Stadium. Saborio's first goal ended a 251-minute scoreless drought for the claret-and-cobalt.
"Oh, finally," said Saborio. "We played hard and, tonight, the soccer wins."
RSL was the dominant side throughout the match, but the first hour looked a lot like the last few games up to that point. Real got into the attacking third with relative ease but was toothless in front of goal. But that all changed in the 60th minute when Beckerman served a teasing ball into the box and Saborio put a header across the face of the goal, sneaking it into the far post. It was the only spot Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins couldn't get to.
"He got a little sniff and he buried it," said Beckerman. "That's what he does. He's a top-notch goal scorer."
As soon as Saborio's first goal went in, one could almost feel the tension lift out of the stadium. With the weight of finally scoring lifted, it came as no surprise that RSL hit the mark again just two minutes later. This time it was a bit easier for Saborio as Portland left him unmarked in the box where he headed home Chris Wingert's cross.
Then in the 75th minute, Saborio had another clear header from point-blank range, but Diego Chara stuck out his arm and cleared it off the line. The action gave Salt Lake the penalty - which was converted by Saborio - and also earned Chara a red card to end any hope of a Timbers comeback. The hat trick was only the team's second ever in MLS play, the previous one coming from the venerable Robbie Findley in 2009.
"[Saborio] is a guy, for me, who's had a lot of injustices lately," said head coach Jason Kreis. "So I'm really, really pleased that now he scores three goals and now we can all feel better about where he stands."
But for Kreis, the hat trick and the clean sheet weren't as important as just getting back in the win column.
"At the moment, it's just the win," he said. "Period. The end. I can breathe again."
His moment of relaxation will be short-lived, however. Next week RSL goes on the road to face the only team above it in the Western Conference: San Jose. The 'Quakes have had Salt Lake's number this year, but RSL will be looking to take some momentum into the showdown.
"We know we have a lot more season to go," said Beckerman. "We want to keep improving. We can improve from tonight. We'll get ready for a big game in San Jose."
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