SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake have been searching for answers when it comes to scoring goals.
If Saturday night’s performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps is any indication, they may have found some. The 2-0 victory marks the first time that RSL has scored multiple goals in a match since April 9 — their third match of the season, a similar 2-0 victory over New England.
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RSL had to rely on some young talent to provide the spark. It came in the form of Jean Alexandre, in his third season with Real Salt Lake. The Haitian international started his second consecutive match at forward, after learning his craft with RSL at the defensive midfield position.
The 24-year-old scored a goal, and also registered an assist.
“It feels great,” said Alexandre. “I just want to thank God for this opportunity because I’ve been dreaming about my first goal, and in my mind it’s always a scrappy ball and it hits me on the head. Tonight’s was a decent goal and so I’m happy for that.”
The goal came in the first half, with a nicely weighted ball played through traffic.
“I’m taking no credit from [Kyle] Beckerman — it was a world-class pass,” said the converted striker. “It took me by surprise. It took everybody by surprise, because that pass was very difficult to make — a one-touch pass to me, and I got the lucky bounce from the defender.”
However, Beckerman gave some of the praise right back to Alexandre, who straddled the offside line and then lifted his shot neatly over sprawling ‘keeper Joe Cannon.
“Jean scored a great goal,” said the RSL captain, “and it was just an awesome effort to get the assist to Fabián.”
“Fabián” is Fabián Espíndola, the livewire RSL striker who got the second goal of the night in large part thanks to Alexandre’s efforts.
Ned Grabavoy intercepted a pass and played it to Alexandre at the midfield stripe. The Haitian evaded several ‘Caps defenders, then, while falling to the turf, managed to whip the ball into space for Espíndola. The Argentine got onto the end of the pass and finished easily.
Coach Jason Kreis was full of praise for his makeshift front line.
“He’s still learning about the proper runs to make to try to get in behind a little more often,” said Kreis of Alexandre. “He was more responsible with possession when it was played to him tonight. The number of balls that he kept for the team and the connected passes was much higher. He involved players coming forward, and he also made a couple of good runs, and of course the goal that unlocks things for us was a bit special – a little bit of an individual effort. Definitely a step forward tonight.”
Alexandre admitted that his confidence is improving.
“It helps a lot,” he said of the goal. “Like I said I’ve been thinking about this moment for a long time, but it’s not over. I’ve got to stay hungry, and keep getting better.”
The area he needs to improve upon most is what he does off the ball.
“I need to get a lot better, especially my movement,” he explained. “I’ve got to get used to making runs instead of shuffling back and forth for the ball like I’m playing center mid. So I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Espíndola, who was on the receiving end of the assist, gave Alexandre a light-hearted endorsement.
“Golazo! Unbelievable!” said Espíndola with a laugh. “It was like Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Amidst the jokes, the importance of the victory and Alexandre's part in it was not lost on Espíndola.
“We needed that,” he said, “and three points at home – so that was huge for us.”