SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake didn’t make it easy on themselves, but they managed to notch their fourth win in five games, beating the Montreal Impact 1-0 courtesy of a Paulo Jr. penalty kick in front of 20,191 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday night.
RSL generated the better of the chances early in the first half despite a high, aggressive Impact press, but lacked the final ball in the attacking third.
They were bailed out, however, after creating a flurry of chances in the box in the 12th minute. Impact striker Justin Braun handled the ball in the area when defending a set piece, giving Ricardo Salazar no choice but to point to the spot.
Paulo Jr. confidently stepped up and slotted a shot to the left of Donovan Ricketts who guessed correctly but couldn’t reach the shot.
It was the Brazilian’s first goal of the year, and his first since April 9, 2011.
And that was it for shots Ricketts couldn’t get to. The big Jamaican, coming off a howler on the weekend at New York, was a wall for Montreal. He stopped Paulo Jr. and Fabián Espíndola on breakaways in the first half, then got down again several times in the second. He also beat Espíndola to a through ball, coming 20 yards off his line to clear convincingly.
Meanwhile, Montreal’s attack started stringing chances together in the second 45, working mainly through Justin Mapp, who played in the hole underneath Braun.
It was that combo which produced the Impact’s best opportunity of the match. In the 56th minute, Mapp beat his defender along the left edge of the box, and played a square ball to Braun making the run down the middle. Nick Rimando was there, however, making a diving stop to snuff out the chance.
Salt Lake nearly added to the lead a few minutes later when Ned Grabavoy put a ball into the penalty area. Espíndola made solid contact, but Ricketts was once again up to the task, pushing it wide.
Despite a late flurry by Montreal, there was to be no late equalizer. Mapp nearly snuck one into the near post before the final whistle, but Rimando was able to cover the shot.
RSL (4-1-0) will host Rocky Mountain Cup foe Colorado on Saturday. Meanwhile the Impact (0-4-1) host Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL vs MTL