Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The disgust between sides Friday in Colorado was as obvious as the night. Nevermind the squawking back and forth between opposing goalkeepers and strikers, coaches and players, players and referees, and between a home crowd of 16,272 and the 300-plus fans who traveled from Utah.
The most contentious rivalry in MLS — one with a history of fights and controversies and a nearly even all-time record — added another chapter, this time between a reeling Real Salt Lake squad and a Colorado team scrapping for a playoff berth.
After a 0-0 draw — what might be RSL's sweetest scoreless tie against Colorado, or any team, really — Real fans could finally exhale. With the tie, RSL snapped a four-game losing skid.
"The objective was to get a shutout and at least a tie," RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said. "I don't want to say it feels like a win. But it's a step in the right direction."
The shutout also earned RSL a fifth consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup — the supporters trophy that goes to the winner of the season series between the regional rivals.
"It means a lot to the fans and to us," Rimando said of retaining the Cup. Colorado hasn't won the trophy since the first two years, 2005-06. "We know that (the Cup) holds true to our fans' hearts. So we battled for it."
The past three games between the teams ended with goals in the final minutes, including a 1-0 Real win in Salt Lake on April 13 after Fabian Espindola's goal in the 93rd minute.
This time, the game-winner never came. But Real twice turned away Colorado scoring chances in the late minutes. In the 82nd minute, Rapids second-half substitution Caleb Folan re-directed a cross with his head straight on toward goal, however, Rimando punched it over the bar.
Two minutes later, Folan again got his head on a shot, this time getting it past Rimando. But the shot bounced down off the crossbar, spun off the goal line and out in traffic. Alvaro Saborio's bicycle kick clearance ended the opportunity.
"I just looked at the referee right away to make sure it didn't go in" Rimando said.
What was a blip on an otherwise bright run through the final third of the MLS season had turned into something nearing catastrophe for Real Salt Lake. Real entered as losers of its past four games, an alarming skid with just two games remaining on its schedule before the MLS playoffs.
The tie may have turned the tide.
"When you have so many things going wrong, it's important for us to bring back our competitiveness and show some fight," RSL coach Jason Kreis said. "Getting back to the defensive details was important."
The Rapids, though, were rested and refreshed, having gone nearly two weeks since downing visiting FC Dallas on Oct. 1.
That might be why Salt Lake struggled through the first half, surrendering possession to Colorado for 61 percent of the 45-plus minutes. With Colorado pushing forward, Real struggled to put together a counter attack, earning just one shot in the first half of the game.
Salt Lake's best chance came in the 75th minute, when Espindola danced with the ball around three Colorado defenders, through the penalty area for a left-footed shot. But it never got through the Rapids' backline.
The more active statistic came courtesy of referee Ricardo Salazar, who issued five yellow card cautions between the teams – four for reckless fouls and tackles.
Colorado leads the all-time series 8-7-7.
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