Goals from Jean Philippe Peguero and Dedi Ben-Dayan propelled the Colorado Rapids past Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Wednesday night in Denver, leaving the expansion team needing a miracle if they are going to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Peguero scored early in the second half and Ben-Dayan added a strange second later on as the win took the Rapids 15 points ahead of RSL with five matches remaining -- meaning the best Real can hope for is to tie Colorado, though they would still have to overcome a minus-29 goal difference.
The second match ever between the two teams (out of the four that will determine the winner of the inaugural Rocky Mountain Cup) began in a very desultory fashion, with neither team taking control and fouling frequently.
The Rapids claimed the first scoring chance of the game in the 16th minute. Jeff Cunningham met an in-swinging free kick, but couldn't get enough on it with his head to power the ball past RSL 'keeper D.J. Countess.
The Rapids continued to control the pace of the game and had another good chance to score in the 20th minute when Jovan Kirovski received a great through ball from Pablo Mastroeni, but he mis-hit the cross.
The 24th minute saw Peguero almost scored a beautiful goal. After RSL fullback Gustavo Cabrera stumbled while attempting a clearance from the goal area, the ball squirted to Peguero whose backheel attempt from close range was quickly smothered by Countess.
Peguero had another spectacular miss in the 28th minute. Kyle Beckermen started a quick counterattack at midfield and found Terry Cooke streaking down the wing. Cooke's pinpoint cross found Peguero drifting behind the RSL back line, but his hard volley went just over the top corner of the goal.
Fittingly, since he had looked dangerous throughout the first half, Peguero opened the scoring in the second half with his sixth goal of the season. The play began with Peguero taking a shot that caromed straight up off of RSL defender Eddie Pope. Eric Denton did well to hustle to the ball before Pope could get there and quickly poked it forward to the now-open Peguero, who easily put the ball in the back of the net.
Byron Foss, starting in goal for the injured Joe Cannon, made a Cannon-esque save in the 52nd minute. A Clint Mathis corner went straight to Melvin Tarley, who powerfully headed the ball at goal, but Foss came up with a great reaction save to preserve the Rapids lead.
Mathis then unleashed one of his patented long-range shots in the 62nd minute that looked like it caught Foss by surprise, but the shot skipped harmlessly past the post and out for a goal kick.
After a long period filled with missed attacking chances and numerous fouls, Cooke nearly put the game away in the 72nd minute. His left-footed strike from the top of the box had Countess beat, but the ball unluckily caromed off the post.
RSL had another great chance to pull level in the 83rd minute. Jamie Watson crossed the ball into the center for an onrushing Tarley, who looked to be able to beat Foss, but his volley skied over the bar.
The Rapids put the game away in the 87th minute under bizarre circumstances. The ball was played back to Andy Williams at midfield, who made no move toward it and instead appeared to have suffered a leg injury. Cooke quickly intercepted and streaked down the wing before sending in a cross that found a wide-open Ben-Dayan. He settled the ball and curled it into the far corner of the net for his first career MLS goal.
Foss made another great save to preserve the clean sheet in stoppage time off of a Leslie Fitzpatrick shot, earning Foss his first MLS shutout in his first-ever MLS start.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Byron Foss (Colroado Rapids)
Geoffrey Urland is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.