TORONTO – Joao Plata scored in the 77th minute to give Toronto FC a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at BMO Field and keep TFC’s playoff hopes alive.
Plata’s third goal of the season, which came on a cross that found its way inside the far right post, gave Toronto FC their fourth league win this year and their first since June 29 when they beat Vancouver. All four of TFC’s wins have come at BMO Field, while RSL are still winless and goalless in five trips to Toronto.
Plata was the star of the night on the attacking end but TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic registered an equally impressive performance in his first start of the season as he filled in for injured regular Stefan Frei, who was out with a leg injury picked up during training earlier this week.
Kocic made several key saves in the second half, including a stunning save on a side volley by RSL’s Will Johnson in second-half stoppage time.
Johnson’s chance was one of several on the night for the visitors, who struck the woodwork twice in the first half. Kyle Beckerman’s shot was deflected on the top side of the crossbar in the 23rd minute while Fabian Espíndola’s left-footed shot floated against the bar seven minutes later.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborío also experienced an off-night, failing to find the back of the net on a handful of near chances. One minute from halftime the Costa Rican international sent a close-range shot wide left just minutes after watching another shot of his saved by Kocic. In the 65th minute Saborío headed an inviting cross by Andy Williams right at the goalkeeper.
Toronto started the game brightly with three chances in the first 10 minutes during an energetic and entertaining first half. Plata and designated player Danny Koevermans had shots that finished off target and Peri Marosevic, who was making the first start of his MLS career, ripped a shot which was saved by RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Toronto manager Aron Winter fielded a 3-4-3 lineup on the night, a deviation from the 4-3-3 his team has employed this season. Designated player Torsten Frings featured at the center of the three-man back line after playing along in the back line last week at D.C. United.
Midfielder Matt Stinson, an 18-year-old Toronto FC Academy graduate, made his first MLS start after seeing service as a sub. TFC forward Ryan Johnson did not play for Toronto because of an ankle injury.
Toronto FC open group play in the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday in Panama when they take on Tauro FC. They then travel to Chicago for a Sunday league match against the Fire.
Real Salt Lake, who saw Tony Beltran come on early in the first half for an injured Chris Wingert, return to action next Saturday in Houston.
TOR -- Joao Plata 3 (Matt Stinson 1) 77
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert (Tony Beltran 32), Chris Schuler, Nat Borchers, Robbie Russell (Paulo Araujo Jr. 81), Luis Gil, Andy Williams (Arturo Alvarez 76), Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio, Fabian Espindola.
Substitutes Not Used: Jean Alexandre, Rauwshan McKenzie, Collen Warner, Kyle Reynish.
Toronto FC -- Milos Kocic, Richard Eckersley, Torsten Frings, Andy Iro (Ty Harden 64), Danleigh Borman, Matt Stinson (Doneil Henry 78), Julian de Guzman, Eric Avila, Peri Marosevic, Danny Koevermans (Javier Martina 74), Joao Plata.
Substitutes Not Used: Terry Dunfield, Ashtone Morgan, Mikael Yourassowsky, Stefan Frei.
RSL -- Will Johnson (caution; Reckless Tackle) 54
RSL -- Andy Williams (caution; Reckless Foul) 62
Referee: Mark Kadlecik
Referee's Assistants: James Conlee; Colin Arblaster
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Clear and 77 degrees