Real Salt Lake used goals in the first half hour from forwards Yura Movsisyan and Clint Mathis to post a 2-0 victory over the University of South Florida Bulls in an exhibition contest held this evening at the USF Soccer and Track Stadium on the school's Tampa campus. RSL goalkeepers Nick Rimando and Chris Seitz combined to continued the team's streak of shutout soccer, the club having yet to relinquish a goal in 270 minutes of play across three spring exhibitions thus far. Tonight's match marked the first of three contests for the Utah side during its 11-day stay in Tampa, while the result moved the squad's record in exhibition play to 2-0-1 for the 2009 preseason.
It was Movsisyan getting the game's first good chance just four minutes in when he picked off a Bulls' pass 35 yards from goal and streaked into the penalty area, only to see his low shot saved. But three minutes later the defending RSL Golden Boot holder would indeed move the scoreboard, capitalizing from close range for his second tally of the preseason to put RSL up 1-0. Movsisyan looked in position to double the lead in the 11th minute after getting on the end of a cross from DF Ian Joy, but his header from eight yards was popped over the crossbar.
After seeing the majority of his time at midfield upon his return to Utah last season, the veteran Mathis teamed with Movsisyan up top this evening, and the move paid off with his first goal of the '09 spring campaign in the 27th minute. Mathis was the instigator on the play, as he made a lengthy run from midfield into the USF area before linking up with Movsisyan, whose initial shot was deflected. But Mathis stuck with the play, pouncing on the rebound in the right side of the area and making enough space to finish off the chance and double the RSL advantage.
The middle third of the game would see the home-standing Bulls settle into the match, and neither team would make any seriously threatening moves towards goal for the 15 minutes surrounding either side of the halftime break. RSL head coach Jason Kreis would insert only three fresh bodies at the half - trialist striker Luis Miguel Escalada, netminder Chris Seitz and winger Tony Beltran - saving the usual mass substitutions for the hour mark, when he brought rookies MF Jean Alexandre and MF Raphael Cox, second-year players MF Alex Nimo and D/M Brennan Tennelle and another forward trialist, Lionel Saint Preux, into the fray.
The second half was a largely choppy affair, both teams struggling to link up in the final third with any continuity for most of the first half hour. But a flurry of activity towards goal would erupt starting in the 73rd minute, when USF nearly capitalized on a 25-yard free kick that was pushed just wide of Seitz' left post, forcing the RSL 'keeper into a full-out dive to guard his post just in case.
Real Salt Lake would answer quickly on the other end with a pair of chances in the next minute, the first coming when Escalada's flick-on a Cox cross from the left flank was stopped at the near post. It was Beltran getting a chance of his own 30 seconds later, but his deep run from the right back position was not quite rewarded after he pushed a shot from outside the area just wide of the target.
Undoubtedly the best chance for either side in the second 45 would come five minutes from time, when Escalada was awarded a questionable penalty kick after being dragged to the ground in a position that appeared to be inside the arc but just outside the penalty area. The spot kick was rewarded regardless, but Escalada couldn't finish off his own opportunity, the Argentine's low shot being stopped by the USF netminder at his right post.
Real Salt Lake will enjoy a day off on Sunday before getting back to practice on Monday in preparation for its second exhibition on the Florida schedule, a scrimmage against the University of Tampa on Tuesday evening. Real Salt Lake has also added a third game to its current preseason leg, as the club has announced it will take part in the University of Tampa's Tom Fitzgerald Memorial Soccer Festival with a contest next Friday, Feb. 27, against Swedish First Division BK Hacken. Kick-off for the fifth annual charitable classic - which will raise funds for a scholarship created in honor of Fitzgerald, the former University of Tampa and Columbus Crew head coach - is set for 7:00 p.m. on the UT campus.
RSL - Yura Movsisyan 7'
RSL - Clint Mathis 27'
RSL: Alex Nimo (caution) 71'
Real Salt Lake Line-up (4-4-2): GK-Nick Rimando (Chris Seitz 46); DF-Chris Wingert, DF-Jamison Olave (Ian Joy 70), DF-David Horst, DF-Ian Joy (Tony Beltran 46); MF-Andy Williams (Brennan Tennelle 61), MF-Kyle Beckerman (Jean Alexandre 61), MF-Javier Morales (Luis Miguel Escalada 46), MF-Will Johnson (Alex Nimo 61); FW-Clint Mathis (Raphael Cox 61), FW-Yura Movsisyan (Lionel Saint Preux 61).