Shield hopes alive as RSL ties
Two goals in waning minutes preserve chance
Marc Piscotty, Getty Images
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Real Salt Lake has grown accustomed to getting results against the Colorado Rapids when it needs them.
Whether it was Yura Movsisyan's playoff-clinching goal in 2008, a 3-0 thrashing in Utah in last year's regular-season finale, or Nat Borchers' improbable 94th minute header in a meeting earlier this year, RSL has owned its rivals.
None of that drama compared to what unfolded Saturday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in front of 17,729 fans.
Down two goals heading into three minutes of stoppage time, Alvaro Saborio scored twice in the waning minutes to lead RSL to a shocking 2-2 draw against the Colorado Rapids.
"Highway robbery," said RSL midfielder Andy Williams. "We didn't play well, but of course everybody knows that. It was probably our worst game all year. But somehow we got two goals."
RSL's hopes of the winning the MLS Supporter's Shield are still very much alive following the draw. It now sits on 56 points in the standings and is level with the L.A. Galaxy, who wrap up the regular season today against FC Dallas. RSL owns the tiebreaker with a better overall goal differential, and the Galaxy need a win or draw to win the Shield.
If L.A. takes care of business, RSL will head into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed and face No. 3 seed FC Dallas. If RSL claims the No. 1 seed, it will face Seattle in the two-game first-round series.
Make no mistake though, as thrilled as RSL was with the final three minutes it doesn't erase the opening 90 minutes.
"For 89 minutes we're disappointed and saying that's not good enough, so we have to be really careful that we don't focus too much on those two minutes. We need to be focused on the 89, otherwise we're not going to have a chance to win a championship," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
When these teams met back at Rio Tinto Stadium last month, Borchers scored in stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw.
Saborio was the catalyst behind the stunning outcome in the rematch.
Despite the two-goal deficit Saborio hadn't resigned himself to the loss when he pressured Colorado keeper Matt Pickens following a back pass. Strikers try and block keeper clearances all the time but almost always to no avail. This time the pressure paid off in miraculous fashion.
Not only did Saborio's outstretched leg block Pickens' clearance, but the ball redirected toward goal. With Pickens scrambling to save it, the ball caromed off the crossbar and Pickens went crashing into the net. Saborio hammered the rebound into the back of the net, trimming Colorado's lead to 2-1.
Saborio's equalizer came from the penalty spot two minutes later.
PKs in the 90th minute are hardly ever called, but referee Ricardo Salazar didn't hesitate pointing to the spot after Jamison Olave was taken down by Brian Mullan.
"When a defender has both his arms around a player quite visible to everybody on the bench and everybody on the field as well it's a foul," said Kreis. "Credit to the referee for calling what was clearly a penalty kick, but just as easily he may have said it's too late in the game."
Beckerman called it a suplex-like takedown.
Saborio calmly buried the penalty, his fifth of the year in all competitions, to salvage the draw. He's now scored a team-leading 18 goals in all competitions.
RSL extended its unbeaten streak to 14 straight with the tie and retained the Rocky Mountain Cup as well for the fourth straight year.
For most of the match such an outcome seemed laughable.
Colorado went ahead early as Omar Cummings found space in between Borchers and Olave and side-volleyed an Anthony Wallace cross past a diving Nick Rimando in the 16th minute. Failing to mark-up Cummings on his 14th goal of the season wasn't the only defensive shortcoming of the night.
Five minutes into the second half Colorado doubled its lead as Olave failed to mark-up Conor Casey, who easily headed in Kosuke Kimura's cross on a quick throw-in. It was the type of mental lapse that Real Salt Lake has avoided most of this year.
"We didn't play good in the last game of the season here in Colorado again and they came out firing and played really well," said Beckerman.
Despite conceding twice to Colorado, RSL still set a single-season MLS record by allowing only 20 goals this season. The previous record was 23 held by Houston in 2008.
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