TORONTO - To the surprise of few, one of the best teams in Major League Soccer put on a clinic against one of the league’s worst.
Real Salt Lake toyed with Toronto FC for most of Saturday evening, coming away with a 3-1 victory in Sandy, Utah.
Alvaro Saborio scored a pair for RSL, taking advantage of poor marking and the gifting of acres of open space.
RSL has allowed a mere five goals at home all season and nine total, compared to Toronto’s 28 against.
Predictably, the Reds rarely threatened Royals keeper Nick Rimando — but RSL’s offence was stronger than usual.
RSL exposed a young, inexperienced Toronto lineup that was missing a host of starters.
The home side fired six shots on goal in the first half, connecting on a pair, while the Reds failed to test Rimando once.
The Royals had possession 72% of the opening 45 minutes.
Minus Julian de Guzman, Nana Attakora, Tony Tchani, Alan Gordon and Jacob Peterson, TFC was dominated from the start, despite a few RSL absences.
The inevitable came in the 39th minute, when Nat Borchers converted a corner kick from Canadian Will Johnson to break the deadlock.
The header was Borchers’ first goal of the season.
RSL continued to open up wide swaths of space against TFC and got a lucky one in the 42nd minute.
Saborio — one of many TFC killers littered throughout the league — deposited into a wide-open goal after a deflection left keeper Stefan Frei helpless.
TFC’s defenders were slow to react to the deflection and Saborio, one of the best finishers in the league, was left wide open.
In the 60th minute, young Doneil Henry got exposed when a mistimed play at the ball drew air, allowing Saborio to finish another open net chance.
Earlier, Henry — who to be fair probably also saved a pair of goals with fine plays in the game — had made a massive miscue, overrunning a ball in the 14th minute which was then fired past Frei but cleared off the line by Danleigh Borman.
Finally, in the 66th minute, Reds captain Maicon Santos gave TFC some life, taking a pass from substitute Nick Soolsma and blasting a strike past Rimaldo for his sixth goal of the season.
Santos had not scored since May 28, while fellow starting forward Javier Martina remains without a goal since his pair against Portland to open TFC’s home schedule.
Early on, Saborio did damage without scoring, kicking Stefan Frei’s hand as he attempted to put in a Kyle Beckerman rebound Frei had dropped.
Saborio is a brilliant player and RSL also has standouts throughout its midfield and backline.
Sure Gordon, Tchani and Co. would have made the game closer, but with or without those reinforcements, the gap between the two clubs is a massive one.
RSL has only lost four times in the four seasons since Rio Tinto Stadium opened while BMO Field is no longer a safe haven for the Reds.
Meanwhile, Toronto has conceded more than three times as many goals as the Royals, but has scored two less goals.
The Reds were coming off of a devastating home loss to the Seattle Sounders last week which saw the Sounders score in stoppage time, despite being down a man.
They now get Vancouver back-to-back at home next week, once in league play and to decide the Canadian championship on Saturday.