Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
For the first time this season, RSL had Nat Borchers in the lineup. He had an immediate impact on the back line which helped on a night when the midfield line was missing playmaker Javier Morales, who is out with a pulled hamstring, and the steady Ned Grabavoy, who is ailing with a dislocated rib. Colorado came out looking like those teams from the lower elevations; from the beginning they just seemed a step slower than Real. Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola capitalized.
Nick Rimando kept a clean sheet Saturday night due in large part to a solidified back line with Nat Borchers back on the field and a very good defensive showing from the entire RSL midfield. He did have two good saves off relatively weak shots from Colorado, but Nick earns his grade from his terrific distribution and leadership in the box.
Tony Beltran was in a surprising mood Saturday. Time after time he could be seen sneaking into dangerous places along the Colorado flanks or putting perfect 40 yard switching crosses right at the feet of fellow defender Chris Wingert. One perfectly placed cross turned into an assist in the 20th minute when he found a wide open Alvaro Saborio standing in front of the goal.
Jamison Olave was not his sharpest Saturday night. He flubbed a couple of routine passes early which seemed to frustrate him. He seemed to shake it off by the second half and his physicality was back on display. He even earned a yellow card for a reckless foul in the 74th minute.
Nat Borchers wasted no time showing Omar Cummings why Real Salt Lake's back line may be the best in MLS when he's there. He schooled Cummings every time he tried to joust with him with veteran patience and savvy. Most welcomed was his on-field leadership, which could be seen in a much more disciplined and organized back line.
Chris Wingert's defensive positioning Saturday night was impeccable. He was pulled into the attack several times in the first half very effectively, but it never meant his flank was left undefended. He found himself forward less in the second half as Real pulled back to hold onto their two goal lead. His impact during the second half defensive stand frustrated the Colorado right side, and they were simply never able got a decent shot or cross off in his presence, even though the pressure was on.
Will Johnson started the game with a spark, booting a blistering shot at goal in the sixth minute that was turned away superbly by Colorado goalie Matt Pickens. He followed that up with solid midfield play all night. The feisty Canadian is known for his untiring motor, but Saturday night he showed surprising strength given his slight frame, shouldering off more than one player on more than one challenge in a Jamison Olave fashion.
Kyle Beckerman's night felt a little like running in sand. He was working hard and in all the right places but progress was hard to come by. He had another goal of the week opportunity fall to him in the 36th minute when the ball fell out of the sky right at his feet, but it skipped off his laces on the half volley and never made it to goal. But it was his missed shot in the 48th minute when he couldn't have been set up any better by Fabian Espindola right at the top of the 18 yard box that had Kyle wishing he could get it back for another try. He earned a yellow card in the same 74th minute fracas that earned Jamison Olave his.
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