Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
SANDY — Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis admitted beforehand that his team's matchup with the Colorado Rapids — the Rocky Mountain Cup — meant more than just a game.
RSL (5-1-0, 15 points) certainly played that way.
The home team played with purpose, beating the Rapids in every facet in a 2-0 victory that could have been a lot worse on the scoreboard for Colorado.
After the win, Kreis talked about the rivalry some more.
"The players were up for this; the crowd was up for it," he said. "Everyone was ready; it certainly wasn't due to good coaching."
Real Salt Lake came out determined, but at the same time they seemed intent on creating good chances. RSL's defense was also solid, not allowing the Rapids anywhere near the net.
"You could put that down as one of the top 10 forty-five minutes in RSL history," Kreis said, referring to the first half. "But it doesn't mean anything unless you play a full 90 minutes."
Colorado (3-2-0, nine points) managed only two shots by halftime, compared to nine for RSL. Four of those came from forward Alvaro Saborio.
One of Saborio's opportunities paid off in the 20th minute when defender Tony Beltran served up a pretty ball, which Saborio one-touched to get an advantage on Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens, then buried into the net.
Early in the game, Colorado defender Kosuke Kimura stayed down dramatically for a long time after being pushed by Saborio. Kimura's performance prompted boos from the RSL crowd every time he touched the ball until he a substitution early in the second half.
Real Salt Lake added its second goal in the 57th minute when Fabian Espindola beat two defenders by splitting them, and ultimately beat Pickens, who was slapped with a yellow card for dissent, arguing Espindola brought down Luis Gil's pass with his left arm.
"I gave everything I had tonight," Espindola said. "I missed a couple of good chances, and then I finally put one in."
Espindola's goal tied him with Robbie Findley for most goals in RSL history with 29. That's an honor that he acknowledges is nice, but he makes it clear that he has a lot of soccer left in him.
"It's a good thing, but I just have to keep going," Espindola said.
Espindola had a few chances to score, but couldn't capitalize. On the first, midfielder Kyle Beckerman got the ball to a wide-open Espindola on a restart, but the shot was wide.
Later, Espindola had another shot that he should have buried, and almost got an assist on a Saborio header that hit the top bar on the net.
Beckerman — who picked up a yellow card along with teammate Jamison Olave — was disappointed in himself when he couldn't convert on a great chance that sailed high in the 48th minute.
For the game, RSL totaled 13 shots on goal, compared to eight for Colorado. Only one of the Rapids' shots was on target.
Rookie midfielder Sebastian Velasquez got another start and played quality minutes.
"I still think it's amazing to get a start and just get some minutes," he said. "These guys on the team have trained with the best of the best, and then they teach us those things they have learned."
As RSL heads out on the road for three games in the next two and a half weeks, Kreis knows what they need to do to be successful.
"We need to do just about the same things we've been doing," he said. "It's really about being focused on doing our best and not what the opponent is doing."
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