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Real Salt Lake 0-0 Toronto FC: Giovinco misses penalty as Reds draw opener

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Nick Rimando’s save from the Italian in the first half proved decisive in a goalless draw.

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in their MLS history, Toronto FC have opened the season with a draw.

Nick Rimando saved a 0-0 tie for Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium by saving Sebastian Giovinco’s first-half penalty, which was low and well-struck but too close to the experienced goalkeeper.

Chances were few and far between for the hosts, but Joao Plata had a golden opportunity to win it in the 78th minute only to lift a shot over the crossbar after being played through by Kyle Beckerman.

Rimando, who conceded the penalty by tripping Giovinco in the area, was busier than Clint Irwin but not tested as often as TFC would have liked given their overall control of the game. Altidore called the 37-year-old into action in the opening 10 minutes and Giovinco later saw a potentially goal-bound effort blocked by the head of David Horst.

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Vanney named an unchanged team from last season’s MLS Cup final, with TFC continuing in the 3-5-2 formation that served them so well during the 2016 playoffs. Victor Vazquez, named among the substitutes, was the only newcomer to the 18-man squad.

Toronto started on the front foot and though their own passing showed signs of early-season rustiness, they looked capable of pressuring Salt Lake into mistakes by setting a high tempo. Altidore found himself one-on-one with Rimando after Horst air kicked at a quick throw-in from the left but did not have time to angle his shot past the onrushing goalkeeper.

At the other end, Salt Lake had their first sight of goal when a corner squirmed through to Beckerman at the back of the penalty area but Justin Morrow was at the front of a crowd of white shirts ready to block the shot.

The Reds did most of their best work when breaking quickly upfield and after Altidore had drilled just wide from a Giovinco pass, the Italian won the chance to give TFC the lead from the penalty spot.

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper and Altidore combined superbly down the left to play around the exposed home defenders and Giovinco, set through on goal, was caught by Rimando’s hand while attempting to round the American.

Rimando had done his homework, however, knowing that Giovinco almost always directs his penalties to the goalkeeper’s right, and got down well to palm the ball away.

Salt Lake started the second half well without testing Irwin - beyond a Tony Beltran cross that looked for a moment as if it might find the target rather than a teammate - before TFC came back into the match through Altidore.

The striker made use of all of his power to shake off a defender down the Toronto right before cutting the ball back for Giovinco in the box, only for his shot to be blocked by Horst.

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Vanney then introduced Vazquez in an attempt to unlock the Salt Lake defence, with Jonathan Osorio making way.

Salt Lake finally mustered their first shot on target when Plata drilled a low shot into the arms of Irwin from distance, but Toronto’s No. 1 was more seriously tested with just under 15 minutes to play.

Jeff Cassar’s side, perhaps taking advantage of the altitude test all visitors to Rio Tinto Stadium face, looked to push for a winner late on and when Beckerman lifted a superb pass over the TFC defence, Irwin did well to rush off his line and force Plata to lob the bouncing ball over the bar.

The new aggression showed by Salt Lake could have been punished, however, on two or three occasions by Toronto’s breaks on the counter-attack. Morrow, Giovinco and Steven Beitashour all had chances to play a team-mate in on goal but could not quite measure a final pass of sufficient quality, and the points were shared.