COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids couldn’t have asked for a better time to get their first win of the season.
Colorado collected their first league victory of 2013 on Saturday night with a 1-0 victory over Rocky Mountain rivals Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park thanks to an early goal by Atiba Harris and a standout performance from rookie goalkeeper Clint Irwin, putting the victorious hosts in prime position to claim their first Rocky Mountain Cup in seven years.
It was an entertaining, up-and-down affair that was off to an explosive start with the 5th-minute goal by Harris and a penalty kick save by Irwin just moments later. The goal-scoring chances continued throughout the match and RSL forward Álvaro Saborío nearly netted the equalizer for the visitors in second-half injury time, but his header went just wide of Irwin’s net.
The Rapids now only need a single point in the final meeting between the two sides on August 3 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to reclaim the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time since 2006 and stop RSL’s run of six straight titles.
COMPLETE LINEUPS AND BOX SCORE
Standings-wise, the Rapids moved out of the Western Conference basement and up to five points in six games while Real Salt Lake stayed at seven points from six games.
The fireworks started early on a mild and breezy night in Commerce City. In the fifth minute, Rapids striker Edson Buddle held off two RSL defenders in the box and was just able to buy himself enough time to dish the ball off to Harris, who easily fired home from close range to score his first goal in a Rapids uniform – against his old team, no less.
But two minutes later, and the visitors nearly equalized from the spot. After Kyle Beckerman and Rapids rookie Dillon Powers tussled in the box, referee Chris Penso called a penalty, but Irwin denied Saborío on a diving save that glanced off the post. The 23-year-old roared emphatically after his save, becoming the first goalkeeper in MLS history to face penalties in each of his first three MLS starts (LA and Portland scored on their spot kicks).
Real Salt Lake held the ball for the majority of the first half, but Colorado nearly tacked on a second goal in the 40th minute when RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando turned away Deshorn Brown’s blast, and Buddle’s header on the ensuing corner went just over the crossbar.
OPTA Chalkboard: RSL can't translate possession into goals
On the other side of the half, Colorado nearly padded their lead when Harris’ re-direct just slid wide of Rimando’s post in the 49th minute.
Irwin again came to the rescue on Saborío’s turn around shot in the 65th. Eight minutes later, and it was Brown who nearly doubled Colorado’s lead on a side touch that barely went wide.
The claret-and-cobalt had the lion's share of the possession in the second half as well, but couldn’t find a way to solve a stingy Colorado back line.
The Rapids hit the road for a showdown with Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center on April 13 while Real Salt Lake stay on the road to battle the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place the same day.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Clint Irwin (COL)||The rookie continues to figure prominently, becoming the first MLS 'keeper to stop a Saborio PK. That was only one of a handful of key plays by the youngster.|
|2||Hendry Thomas (COL)||On a night that featured several hard-working Rapids players, the Honduran stood out for the number of RSL attacks he broke up as lone defensive midfielder.|
|3||Marvell Wynne (COL)||The major reason RSL's forwards were nullified in the match. Was especially on his game this night, making clear he knows what the rivalry is all about.|