COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The Colorado Rapids surrendered the Rocky Mountain Cup, and slipped six points behind their rivals after failing to find a way past 10-man Real Salt Lake at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night.
Javier Morales’ early strike was enough, as RSL returned the rivalry trophy back to the Rio Tinto for the seventh time in eight years after a one-year trip to Colorado last season, with RSL claiming a 1-0 victory in front of a packed house in Commerce City.
The visitors survived a late flurry of Rapids chances and Aaron Maund’s 47th-minute red card as goalkeeper Nick Rimando’s last-minute diving save clinched himself a tie for MLS’ all-time shutout leader with 112. It also marked Salt Lake’s first win in Colorado since 2007.
The first notable chance for either side fell in the 10th minute, when Robbie Findley’s volley just outside the 18 required a spectacular diving one-handed save from Rapids ‘keeper Clint Irwin.
But four minutes later, RSL would deliver the decisive blow. Chris Wingert’s run down the left side opened up plenty of space for a hard-charging Morales, and from just inside the penalty box the Argentine didn’t make a mistake, firing into the bottom corner and past Irwin for the 14th minute 1-0 advantage. The goal was Morales’ sixth of the season.
The Rapids started to find their footing in the match, however, and in the 28th minute they should have equalized. Off a Vicente Sanchez corner kick, Deshorn Brown had a sitter right in front of Rimando’s goal, but the Rapids’ leading scorer toed the ball over the keeper and well over the goal.
Nick LaBrocca’s effort just whizzed over Rimando’s goal three minutes later as Colorado kept the pressure on RSL following the Morales goal, but the visitors happily went into the locker room with the advantage despite Colorado’s domination on going behind.
Out of the gates, however, Real Salt Lake defender Maund – filling in for an injured Chris Schuler – saw a straight red for his breakaway stop on Sanchez just outside the penalty box, forcing the visitors to play a man down for nearly the entire second half.
Despite the advantage, Colorado’s attempts on goal were numerous but weren’t particularly impressive. Brown had two headers around the hour mark, but both comfortably went wide of goal, and substitute Gabriel Torres’ 78th-minute shot went straight into Rimando’s hands.
The best was saved for last, however, as Brown’s desperation blast three minutes into injury time required a terrific diving save from Rimando, perhaps appropriately on his historic night.
The Rapids now hit the road for just their second matchup against FC Dallas and old coach Oscar Pareja on Saturday night (9:00pm ET).
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Nat Borchers||Bettered Deshorn Brown throughout the night, and did well both at full strength and after his center back partner was sent off|
|2||Nick Rimando||Notched six saves in the win, and wrote his name in MLS record books by matching the all-time shutout mark|
|3||Vicente Sanchez||The Rapids couldn't finish, but Sanchez was often in the middle of build-up play, putting RSL on edge all night|