A Brian Dunseth goal nine minutes from the end gave Real Salt Lake a home opener to remember, the expansion team winning for the first time in a 1-0 victory against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon.
The Rocky Mountain Cup kicked off in front an overflow throng at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Real's first home game after two matches on the road to begin their history. Dunseth made sure they went home happy when he headed home a Clint Mathis free kick for the game's only goal, the second in club history.
The crowd was late in getting to their seats, and the Rapids took advantage by putting Real on their heels in the early going. Two minutes in, Rapids defender Nat Borchers cracked off the first shot, when a loose ball off the top of the box bounced his way.
But it wasn't long before the Utah crowd found their seats and the home team found their feet. Mathis showed that his mohawk was more than just a hair-do, but an attitude change, when he received his first yellow card of the season. From that point, the feel of the game changed.
In the 19th minute Real got their first real chance on goal when Mathis fed rookie Luke Kreamalmeyer streaking down the left side of the pitch. Kreamalmeyer took the ball into the corner and put a cross in to Kreis, but his shot sailed just wide of the net.
Kreamalmeyer continued to be a target as Real attacked Hunter Freeman and Borchers on the right of the Rapids defense. And in the 27th minute Kreamalmeyer found himself on the good end of a Mathis cross before popping a shot over the cross bar.
In the second half, Colorado again came out strong, but failed to gain any real scoring opportunities before the revamped Real defense put the clamps on the Rapids attack.
With the defense playing as a cohesive unit, Real was able to open up the Colorado backline, plying the ball through the middle and winning the midfield battle.
In the 61st minute Terry Cooke came in for a tiring Kyle Beckerman, then more fresh legs quickly joined him when Alain Nkong came on for Luchi Gonzalez giving the Rapids a 4-5-1 formation.
The new lineup gave the Rapids an offensive boost as they put together a flurry of shots in the 73rd minute. But it wouldn't last as Real made its own substitutions bringing Evan Whitfield in for Chris Brown and Leslie "Tiger" Fitzpatrick for Kreamalmeyer at the two wide midfield positions.
Real finally capitalized on their control of the match when Mathis took a free kick from wide on the right beyond the corner of the area in the 81st minute. The ball flashed through the penalty area and bounced in the heart of the goal area, and the hard-charging Dunseth came in alone at the back post to head home.
The Rapids caused the home fans some tense moments over the final seconds, nearly pulling level in the 88th minute when Cooke put a hard shot toward the far post from the right wing. But Real defender Rusty Pierce was able to make a last-ditch clearance to guarantee D.J. Countess his second clean sheet in three games -- and a celebration for Real in their first match in Utah.
Real Salt Lake hit the road to play FC Dallas next Saturday at the Cotton Bowl (8 p.m. ET). The Rapids return home to face the Columbus Crew (9 p.m. ET) on the same day.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Brian Dunseth (Real Salt Lake)
David Hale is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its club.
Colorado Rapids (0-2-1) vs. Real Salt Lake (1-1-1)
April 16, 2005 -- Rice-Eccles Stadium
RSL -- Brian Dunseth 1 (Clint Mathis 1) 81
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Hunter Freeman (Guy Melamed 84), Nat Borchers, Eric Denton, Ritchie Kotschau, Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman (Terry Cooke 61), Pablo Mastroeni, Mark Chung, Luchi Gonzalez (Alain Nkong 67), Wolde Harris.
Substitutes Not Used: Leo Cullen, Byron Foss.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Mark Chung 2, Alain Nkong 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 17 (Wolde Harris 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Chris Henderson 1); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Mark Chung 4); SAVES: 2 (Joe Cannon 2)
Real Salt Lake -- D.J. Countess, Rusty Pierce, Brian Dunseth, Eddie Pope, Marlon Rojas, Chris Brown (Evan Whitfield 70), Brian Kamler, Clint Mathis, Luke Kreamalmeyer (Leslie Fitzpatrick 76), Dipsy Selolwane (Jordan Cila 83), Jason Kreis.
Substitutes Not Used: Nelson Akwari, Matt Behncke, Jay Nolly, Kevin Novak, Leighton O'Brien, Jamie Watson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Luke Kreamalmeyer 3, Dipsy Selolwane 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 11 (Brian Kamler 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Jason Kreis 1); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Clint Mathis 2); SAVES: 3 (D.J. Countess 3)
RSL -- Clint Mathis (caution; Dissent) 12
COL -- Hunter Freeman (caution; Delaying a Restart) 64
Referee: Brian Hall
Referee's Assistants: -Nathan Clement; Kermit Quisenberry
4th Official: Richard Heron
Time of Game: 1:49
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.