Real Salt Lake came out on top in an exhibition grudge match with expansion brethren Chivas USA Friday night, defeating their fellow first-year club 1-0 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
RSL rookie forward Jamie Watson, a second-half substitute, provided the game-winner for the home side in the 60th minute of a match that was played with surprising intensity. Although the result had no effect on either team's official standings, the atmosphere was still electric and both teams started all of their healthy regular players, trying to win the rubber match after having split their regular season results with each team winning their home matches.
Chivas nearly opened the scoring nine minutes into the match when Matt Taylor narrowly missed the frame from 10 yards. Antonio Martinez rounded the corner on the RSL defense and sent a low cross in for the UCLA product. The Chivas striker hit a low shot on the first touch that went a few feet wide of the post.
Throughout the evening, Juan Francisco Palencia tried repeatedly to get the better of RSL defender Nelson Akwari. In the 18th minute, the Mexican national team veteran beat Akwari to send a bouncing cross toward Taylor, who was waiting on the back post, but Salt lake midfielder Chris Brown was able to break up the play by nodding the ball over endline. Two minutes later, Palencia again beat Akwari to send in another dangerous cross, this time intercepted by RSL 'keeper Jay Nolly.
In the 35th minute, Palencia torched Akwari a third time and sent a rocket toward goal, but Nolly dove to punch the shot out of play.
RSL had their own chances to score in the first half, particularly from playmaker Andy Williams. In the 39th minute, Williams tried to get a shot on goal but saw the ball go wide of the far post, and just two minutes later, the former Jamaican international took another chance that was deflected off of Chivas midfielder Francisco Gomez and quickly caught by 'keeper Brad Guzan.
Upon entering the match at the start of the second half, Watson made an immediate impact, adding a bit of physical play and earning a 54th-minute yellow card. Six minutes later, the first-year player broke the deadlock for Salt Lake. Kenny Cutler laid a soft ball to Clint Mathis who played the ball on to Watson. The RSL rookie found Chivas 'keeper Sergio Garcia, who had come on at halftime for Guzan, off his line and floated a shot over the substitute and into the net.
Chivas looked to pressure following the RSL goal. In the 72nd minute, Palencia found Juan Pablo Garcia down field with a long high ball. Garcia fired a first time shot on the run that went well wide of the frame.
Mathis tried to seal the game in the 78th minute from a free kick just outside the box as he rocketed a shot over a wall of Chivas defenders, but the ball bounced high off the crossbar.
Chivas had their final meaningful opportunity in the 86th minute as Palencia slipped a through ball to Orlando Perez, who had yards of space. Perez brought the ball down, but cracked his shot a few feet wide of the goal.
Scott McAllister is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.