Switching from midfielder to forward has taken some adjustment for Jean Alexandre. Even though he played up top at Alabama A&M, readapting his body to the movement demanded by the position has taken time.
"I got to get used to making runs versus shuffling back and forth for the ball like I'm playing centre mid," Alexandre said. "I've got a lot of work to do."
Alexandre took a major step forward as a forward on Saturday night. He scored his first career MLS goal and tallied his first career assist to lead Real Salt Lake to a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium.
When Alexandre visualized scoring his first MLS goal, it always played out the same way in his mind. Alexandre saw himself getting his head on the ball and bouncing it into the net to finish off a scrappy play.
How it actually played out was a thing of beauty. He took a one-touch pass from Kyle Beckerman in the 32nd minute and drew out Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon as he dribbled the ball toward the left post. Alexandre sliced a shot past Cannon securely inside the post.
"It was a world class pass," Alexandre said. "It took me by surprise. It took everybody by surprise because that pass was very difficult to make."
In the 79th minute, Alexandre got his chance to make the pass that counted. He set up Fabian Espindola outside the box, and he overcame Cannon's challenge and blasted the ball past him.
Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis praised Espindola for showing his best form since the preseason. He said the veteran forward has been making every effort to be the sort of playmaker the team needs with Javier Morales on the sidelines.
"He's taking probably a few more risks than typical and I think he's doing that because he knows somebody has got to make a difference right now for us," Kreis said.
Espindola was relieved to finally break a personal scoring drought.
"I put everything I have into games," he said. "It's good when you score and help the team."
Vancouver hasn't won in 13 games since taking its first MLS game against Toronto FC. Salt Lake made sure the Whitecaps did not finally obtain three points at their expense by outplaying them on both ends of the field.
Real Salt Lake created 24 shots and put eight of those on goal; Vancouver managed just six shots. The most impressive part of that effort is that Salt Lake did it after suiting up just 17 players — one short of a full 18-man roster — because of injuries and national team call-ups.
"After losing to Seattle last weekend, we knew we had something to prove this weekend," defender Nat Borchers said. "We knew we had to come out and prove ourselves again to the fans, make a statement to the league and get those three points."