RSL extended its MLS regular-season unbeaten streak to 18 games and home undefeated streak to 27 on a rocky night for many of its players at Rio Tinto Stadium Wednesday night. Here’s how they did:
The veteran goalkeeper had a clutch save in the first half, a terrific breakup in the second and provided surprisingly good distribution out of the box on a cold, wet and windy night. Besides that he tied Zack Thornton for second place on MLS career shutout list with his 76th clean sheet. Much of that must be shared with his stingy defense that allowed only one shot on goal but Rimando came up strong when called upon. Grade: A
Tony was like American Express Wednesday night; everywhere he needed to be. Giving Robbie Russell a breather, his pressure and spacing were superb all night long and what he lacked in the long, switching crosses we’re used to from Russell he made up for in box-to-box hustle and some terrific crosses in the final third. Grade: A-
Olave was terrific when he stayed at home and played his position. But on more than one occasion he left his post to ramble into the final third with the ball still at his feet, leaving fellow center back Borchers wondering why he was suddenly alone and exposed on the backline. But soccer can be a game of luck. And rather than spelling disaster, as it easily could have, his down-field run in the 92nd minute drew the foul that gave Real its goal scoring opportunity. Grade: B
Borchers played conservatively. And thank goodness for that. With Olave “running around the field like a mad man,” as Borchers joked in a post game interview, somebody had to. He paid attention to the small stuff and it paid off big time with a Borchers led backline allowing only one recorded shot on goal. I would have given him an A if not for the uncontested easy header on goal he missed in the first half. Grade: A-
Captain Beckerman worked hard from box to box as always but seemed hampered by Colorado’s tight defense and possible fatigue from playing two-and-a-half games in seven days. Some of his decisions were rushed and his defense became lax in the final 20 minutes of the second half when he allowed a couple of Rapids players easy access to the box with some lazy pokes rather than his typical holding defense. Grade: B
Wingert might be best graded on two halves. The first half he was rushed and often out of position and his passes were off target all half. Half 1 Grade: C-. But he came out a new man in the second half and settled into one of his best halves of the season with patience and dead-on field positioning to go with solid distribution from his winger position. Half 2 Grade: A. Game Grade: B-
The Jedi master was well rested and it showed. His pressure in the midfield was terrific all night long and he created a number of great scoring opportunities with what would have been perfectly weighted passes on any other night when the wet ground wasn’t slick as ice. It’s too bad it wasn’t his assist that Espindola scored on as they teamed up all night to frighten Rapids fans with several near scoring opportunitites. Grade: A
The Argentine playmaker was taken down in the box on a non-call in the eighth minute and it shook his typically rock-solid rhythm the rest of the night. He did manage to put two very special balls into the box for a called back goal by Espindola and the final free kick that magically bent around the wall to ricochet off the right post for Paulo Jr. to gather up and slide to Espindola for the winning goal. Grade: B+
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