<strong>SANDY—</strong> Seven straight wins over the Colorado Rapids extended to eight straight Saturday night, as a pair of heads-up plays by Real Salt Lake’s forwards sealed a sixth consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup with a score of 2-0.
“I’m pleased with the initial response,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said. “I’m really pleased the guys took last weekend’s result to heart. The guys worked extremely hard this week in training. It’s good to see it translate to the match tonight. The guys came out and started fantastically well.”
RSL’s forwards pressured Colorado all match from the first minute. Real forward Fabian Espindola had six shots on goal in the first half and three of those came within the first 15 minutes.
“We’re unlucky probably not to create a little more than they did, but I thought Colorado was very disciplined and very difficult for us to break down,” Kreis said. “Sometimes you need to score goals in different ways, and it’s nice to see that we did that tonight with Fabian pressing to create the first one and Sabo pressing to create the second one.
“Sometimes when you play teams that are very compact and very organized, the best way to get at them is win the ball in their half and be quick toward their goal.”
Espindola’s tight pressure paid off in the 32nd minute as he intercepted a slow-rolling pass from Colorado defender Hunter Freeman intended for Rapids’ keeper Matt Pickens. Espindola won the ball from Pickens and sent the ball toward the goal. Fellow forward Alvaro Saborio let the ball roll for a few feet before poking in his 11th goal of the season.
RSL kept the ball on Colorado’s side of the field for a majority of the first half, but that trend did not continue for much of the second half. For undisclosed precautionary reasons, Kreis took out defender Jamison Olave and RSL’s defense began to lag soon after.
With a possibility of Colorado tying the game and prolonging the answer of who would win the Rocky Mountain Cup for another two weeks, RSL midfielder Will Johnson made sure his team claimed the cup with a goal in the 90th minute.
Pressure from Saborio gave Johnson a wide open shot at the goal, and the midfielder placed it in left corner past Pickens for his second goal of the season.
“We feel that we are at our best when we are the team that is pressing the game and that starts with our forwards,” Kreis said. “When they are willing to chase down lost causes, when they are willing to go pressure any of the four defenders, when they are willing to make 30 and 40-yard runs to do that, it means that everybody on our team gets to step up the field and typically we win it in their half.”
RSL held on for the victory in the three minutes of extra time in one of the most heated rivalries in Major League Soccer.
“I think it’s a fantastic rivalry and it has been since day one,” Kreis said. “Probably because they were the opponent in the very first game in Real Salt Lake’s history back in 2005 and that was a tight affair.
“It’s always been an emotional game. You see the Colorado fans there tonight and the same thing happens when we go there. Our fans show up in droves and are quite loud and passionate. It obviously means something to our fans. If it means something to our fans, it means something to us as well.”
Kreis and his group were particularly happy with the result considering the way the team has performed since a home loss to Minnesota Stars FC in the Open Cup on May 29th.
“It was really important, especially with some of the results we’ve had at home in the last two months or so,” RSL defender Ned Grabovoy said. “I looked at the team before the game, and it was the most relaxed I’ve seen the team in a long time. I think that says a lot about the group of guys. We’re never too low when we lose and we’re never too high when we win.”
The last two months haven’t been void of wins, however, RSL has struggled with consistency as it has won games by great margin one match and turned around to lose the next match by a large margin as well.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, but honestly we had a very good result two weeks ago and then we came out and got our butts handed to us,” Kreis said. “I think it’s going to be very important for the guys to remember we need to stay humble and remember what it takes to get results. When we don’t do that, we don’t get results and when we do do that, we do get results.”