Fabian Espindola knocked in a loose rebound late in stoppage time to give Real Salt Lake a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids and a leg-up in the 2011 Rocky Mountain Cup. Espindola also gave MLS fans the only goal of the evening, as the other match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Toronto FC ended 0-0.
Colorado was again without Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni, and while the midfield was able to play well against the home team, missing both of these players is obviously a problem for the Rapids. Colorado created few chances this match, mainly relaying on hitting RSL on the counter using the speed of Omar Cummings and Caleb Forlan. But with Cummings coming off in the 64th minute for Quincy Amarikwa, and Amarikwa coming off five minutes later with an injury, the Colorado attack was hampered throughout. Their best chance of the match may have been Nate Borchers early in the first half who was unmarked on a header but his angle put the shot wide of the goal. Jamie Smith had a good chance the minute prior, as his looping shot outside the box befuddled the RSL defense but was easily handled by Nick Rimando.
Espindola had seemingly put Real Salt Lake ahead in the first half scoring on a free kick but he was ruled offsides. RSL dominated possession in the first and had numerous scoring chances. Credit to Matt Pickens and the Colorado fullbacks for keeping RSL off the scoresheet; Colorado played a high line that led to eight offsides’ calls on Real and when they got behind the line Pickens made some great saves. In stoppage time, Javier Morales lined up a great free kick that was initially saved by Pickens but he was unable to punch it clear. It landed in front of a mostly empty net and after a brief scramble Espindola kicked it home.
The win keeps RSL’s perfect start to the season just that – still perfect. Hats off to the teams for finding a way to win against a good opponent in bad weather. Hats off as well to the Rapids, who despite missing two starters had a pretty good game plan and almost escaped Rio Tinto with a point. However, without Conor Casey to compliments Omar Cummings and Caleb Forlan, and with Pablo Mastroeni to provide some defense in the midfield, this team needs to find ways to win.