SANDY, Utah – Alvaro Saborio's goal in the 32nd minute and a late insurance tally from Will Johnson clinched a sixth consecutive Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup for Real Salt Lake as they posted a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Though Saborio finished off the team's best chance of the first half, most of the credit for RSL's opener would go to his running mate up top, Fabian Espindola.
The Argentine's pressure at the back forced a lazy back pass from Marvell Wynne to Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens. Espindola hustled after the slow-roller, forcing Pickens to try to clear it, but the speedy Argentine was right there to get his foot on the ball and deflect the ball back toward the goalmouth. When he realized the ball wouldn't cross the line on its own, Saborio tapped it in for his 11th tally of the season.
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The win took RSL (13-7-3) back to within one point of the Western Conference-leading San Jose Earthquakes, who are in action tomorrow at Vancouver. The loss was the fifth straight for the Rapids (7-14-1), who now have to overcome an eight-point deficit in their race for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
Saborio's goal represented the best opportunity of a closely-matched first half, though Nat Borchers will felt he could have done better in his attempt to redirect a low Javier Morales cross on frame in the 17th minute.
After entering halftime still trailing 1-0, Colorado coach Oscar Pareja tried to find some sort of offense in the second half, substituting Omar Cummings for Jaime Castrillon to begin the second half and taking out the mostly ineffective Edu for Brian Mullan not long after. It didn't really seem to matter much who was on the pitch for the visiting Rapids as their mostly-stagnant attack posed little danger
Espindola nearly iced the game in the 65th minute on another strange sequence. On a goal kick from keeper Nick Rimando, Espindola dashed deep into Colorado territory behind the defense, lashing a half-volley wide of the post straight off the restart with only Pickens to beat.
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The suspense nearly ended again only two minutes later on a blast from Javier Morales from 25 yards, but Pickens laid out to make the diving save and stop the shot on its way to the upper right-hand corner. Pickens was also up to the task on Saborio's left-footed rocket from just outside the box in the 70th minute.
Despite RSL controlling things for long stretches, the Rapids still had some fight in them and nearly stole a point, with Cummings' skied chance from the middle of the area proving their best opportunity.
Ultimately, another defensive mistake at the back that gave RSL the peace of mind they needed. Saborio came from behind to steal the ball from an unsuspecting Tyrone Marshall and hit it ahead to a streaking Will Johnson. The hard-working midfielder went in one-on-one and made it count as he clinically finished to the lower-left corner from just inside the penalty area.
RSL are back at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 27 for a rare Friday match at Rio Tinto Stadium. Colorado, meanwhile, host English Premier League outfit Swansea City in a friendly on July 24 and will then attempt to snap their seven-game league winless streak at home to the Seattle Sounders on July 28.
RSL - Alvaro Saborio (unassisted) 32'
RSL - Will Johnson (unassisted) 90'
COL - Joseph Nane (caution) 45
RSL - Johnny Steele (caution) 82
Colorado Rapids lineup: Matt Pickens, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Joseph Nane, Wells Thompson, Jamie Castrillon (Omar Cummings 46'), Tony Cascio, Martin Rivero (Kamani Hill 75'), Edu (Brian Mullan 57')
Subs not used: Stew Ceus, Hunter Freeman, Shane O'Neill, Jamie Smith
Referee: Silviu Petrescu