SANDY, Utah – For the first 22 minutes of Saturday's game against Colorado, Real Salt Lake controlled the run of play but somehow couldn't tack the last pass on possession after possession.
That is until Tony Beltran got off a nice pass to Devon Sandoval, who got off a nice pass to Javier Morales, who set Joao Plata up beautifully for his sixth goal of the season – a left-footer from the left side of the box, back across the goal and inside the right post past Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
The goal gave the the Claret-and-Cobalt a lead they would never relinquish en route to a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the 2014 edition of the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Just five minutes into the second half, RSL doubled the lead in a way that was oh-so-familiar to the Rapids. Salt Lake midfielder Ned Grabavoy maneuvered the ball into the box and passed it to Sandoval, who was taken down by Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Referee Mark Geiger pointed to the spot and, after strong objections by the Rapids, Morales stepped up and put it in the upper right of the net for his fourth goal in two games.
As is generally the case when these two teams get together, there would again be late game drama. In the 83rd minute, Colorado's Drew Moor finally got one to go his way as he cut the lead in half with a header off Dillon Serna's free kick. However RSL held on for the full three points.
The win extended RSL's unbeaten streak to start the season to 11 games in a row, and they did it without captain Kyle Beckerman, veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando and leading scorer Alvaro Saborio, who were with their national team's at pre-World Cup camps.
After taking the 2-0 lead, Salt Lake repeatedly dodged bullets fired at them by the Rapids. And Colorado did not lack for chances. In the 57th minute, an unmarked Moor launched a header to the far post that could've, should've gone in. Just two minutes later, RSL goalkeeper Jeff Attinella came out to get the ball and missed, leaving Moor with another header that also failed to find the net.
Attinella, stepping in for Rimando, kept the Rapids off the scoreboard for 83 minutes with several spectacular saves, including a double save in the 73rd minute on shots from Kamani Hill and Serna as Colorado's push intensified.
RSL's (6-0-5, 23 points) win was the first over the Rapids (4-4-3, 15 points) since July 21, 2012; Colorado have won two and tied two since then. A decade into the rivalry, it's all tied up: 10 wins apiece, with nine ties.
The win also gives RSL a leg up on regaining the Rocky Mountain Cup, the symbol of supremacy between the two teams. The team that claims the most points in the three regular-season games claims the cup; if it's a tie, the cup remains the previous year's winner, Colorado.
Real Salt Lake host FC Dallas on May 25; Colorado return home to take on Montreal.
The Rocky Mountain Rivalry resumes on Aug. 2 in Colorado before concluding on Sept. 18 back in Rio Tinto Stadium.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Jeff Attinella||Despite a shaky stretch in the second half, he filled in admirably for Nick Rimando - and made a handful of highlight-reel saves that proved necessary|
|2||Devon Sandoval||Active all game - and all over the field. Had a great assist on Plata's goal, and drew the PK for Morales.|
|3||Dillon Serna||One of the few bright spots, Serna was again not afraid to shoot and would've scored if not for RSL's GK. At least he got an assist for his willingness to attack.|