SANDY, Utah – Colorado Rapids rookie forward Deshorn Brown thought he’d found an early-season spark in the last place his team expected to find it, but savvy Real Salt Lake veteran Álvaro Saborío still had plenty to say about that.
The Costa Rican international scored his series-leading fifth career goal of the Rocky Mountain Cup in the 80th minute and RSL clawed back from an early hole for a 1-1 draw in the teams’ first tangle of the new season on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The draw not only kept the Rapids (0-2-1) winless on the young season, but it also tightened a suffocating grip on the visitors from Denver when they head west of the Rockies. The Rapids have not won a game in Utah in the past six years, a streak that reached nine games when Saborío placed a right-footed shot in the back of the net to the delight of more than 20,000 fans on hand for the team’s season opener.
RSL sit at 1-1-1 on the season.
The two teams will renew the rivalry on April 6 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
The Rapids will almost certainly play that game without starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who was injured and taken out of the game just four minutes into the match on Saturday. Pickens suffered a broken forearm during a mid-air collision with RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe on an RSL corner kick and remained on the ground in pain for roughly five minutes before he was helped off the field and rushed to an area hospital for further evaluation.
Backup Clint Irwin, who was signed by the club in February as a third option and had never seen a minute of MLS league action until he stepped onto the field Saturday, made three saves in the match. He turned away RSL midfielder Luis Gil with aplomb twice, first with a diving save to his left in the 41st minute and again by surging off his line and closing down the angle on a wide-open shot from 15 yards out in the 64th minute.
Brown’s first career goal was certainly a fortuitous one, but opportunistic nonetheless. RSL defender Chris Schuler fumbled a clearance outside the top of the RSL box and the former University of Central Florida star picked it clean, breaking in on RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando before calmly placing a right-footed shot to the back post.
The Rapids had the best early scoring chance of the day when Brown scuffed a shot just wide of the post in the 14th minute, and Harris narrowly missed the far post with a left-footed shot in the 18th minute after he was set up by a through ball from rookie midfielder Dillon Powers.
RSL followed with their own missed chance just seconds later, when Robbie Findley chipped a shot over the bar after he rushed through the Rapids backline on a through ball from Schuler.
Beckerman also missed a shot wide of the post in the 31st minute, and Rapids forward Tony Cascio had a crucial chance to pad the Rapids’ lead in the 78th minute but was turned away by Rimando. Rapids forward Atiba Harris struggled to solve Rimando in the closing minutes as well, with the RSL veteran making a save with his chest from roughly six yards away.
Pickens’ injury wasn’t the only rough play in the first game of a three-game set this season between the Rocky Mountain rivals. RSL defender Lovel Palmer suffered a kick to the face in the seventh minute courtesy of Harris, who was later hip-checked by Schuler in the 53rd and limped off the field before retuning.
RSL midfielder Khari Stephenson also left the game at halftime with a sprained knee and was replaced by veteran Ned Grabavoy. Pablo Mastroeni – the only current Rapids player on the roster the last time Colorado won a game in Utah in April 2007 – did not make the trip due to a nagging hamstring injury.
The Rapids return to action on March 23 at LA, while RSL are at FC Dallas the same day.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Clint Irwin (COL)||The Rapids goalkeeper situation went from bad to worse on Saturday, but Irwin saved them a point, no question.|
|2||Nick Rimando (RSL)||Without two late saves, RSL would have lost this one. Didn't have much to do until it counted, but then it was vintage Rimando.|
|3||Álvaro Saborío (RSL)||Held in check by Drew Moor for much of the day, but got the goal RSL needed to avoid the upset. Clutch strikers do that.|