Real Salt Lake came out confident before a packed Rio Tinto Stadium of 20,370 screaming fans on a beautiful day for their home opener. Everything looked to be going Real Salt Lake's way. Colorado's veteran goalie Matt Pickens went out early with a broken forearm, and the boys in Claret and Cobalt had an untested rookie in Clint Irwin to pelt with shots. But it was Colorado's Deshorn Brown who did most of the pelting in the first half with three shots on goal — one of them making it past Nick Rimando to put Colorado up 0-1.
The second half saw RSL retain the majority of possession, but Colorado looked poised to take advantage of its few fast-break opportunities until it ran into Rimando, who had numerous goal-of-the-week saves. Alvaro Saborio squared things up in the 80th minute off a Gil/Plata assist, and RSL starts the season 1-1-1.
Nick Rimando (GK) Colorado's three forwards seemed to be able to cut through RSL's defenses like a hot knife through butter all through the first half, leaving Rimando vulnerable. Deshorn Brown made two strong runs into the box. His second best run came in the 24th minute when he put a strong, low shot on frame, which Rimando handled easily. His best challenge on Rimando came in the 38th minute when he dribbled past Chris Schuler and went to the far post far beyond Rimando's reach. Rimando came up big when Colorado found itself breaking toward goal in the 68th minute with no defenders in its way. Dillon Powers took the open shot, which Rimando had no problem smothering. Rimando had a great moment on a reflex save in the 78th minute when Tony Cascio found his way into the box for a point-blank shot that Rimando deflected to keep Colorado to just a single goal. GRADE: A, MAN OF THE MATCH
Lovell Palmer (DEF) Palmer got his first start Saturday for RLS and provided a nice spark on the left side. His hustle created opportunities on the offensive end while he rarely lost position on the defensive end. Near the end of the game he struggled some, and his cross in the 74th minute, meant for the goal-face, was just plain awful. GRADE: B
Chris Schuler (DEF) Schuler showed his youth a number of times Saturday, but most in the 38th minute. He allowed the pesky Deshorn Brown to dribble around him easily in the 18-yard box for a point-blank shot at Nick Rimando, which he buried in the far right corner of the box. He nearly lost him again in the 39th minute when he put a shot on goal that Rimando saved. While Schuler settled in better in the second half, his passing and positioning were still lacking. Saturday may have been Schuler's poorest in an RSL uniform so far this year. GRADE: C+
Kwame Watson-Siriboe (DEF) Watson-Siriboe struggled Saturday afternoon to keep Colorado, and especially Deshorn Brown, contained. Brown found space several times between Watson-Siriboe and Beltran to get shots on goal. GRADE: B-
Tony Beltran (DEF) Beltran may have started the game a little too bold in his offensive play forward, with the speedy Deshorn Brown looking for every opportunity to get in behind him on fast-break opportunities, and he did twice. Neither time turned into a goal, but Beltran settled back into position the rest of the game and clearly got word at halftime from Jason Kreis that Brown was not to be allowed unimpeded progress while in RSL's final third. Beltran happened to be in the perfect place at the perfect time in the 64th minute, when a Ned Grabavoy cross ricocheted out to the right of the 18-yard box. Beltran blasted the ball point-blank at Colorado's Clint Irwin, who was just enough of a speed bump to keep the ball from finding the back of the net. GRADE: B
Luis Gil (MID) Gil has a habit sometimes of disappearing in the midfield, seemingly content with just getting caught up in the flow of the game rather than directing it. He wasn't particularly bad during the first half Saturday, but he just wasn't the dominant presence Real fans have glimpsed in the past. Gil found his footing in the second half when he moved into the offensive midfield where Khari Stephensen had been playing. Gil gave every 50-50 a second effort and it began to pay off. He wiggled a ball loose in the 18-yard box in the 79th minute to Jao Plata, who one-touched to find Alvaro Saborio for his first goal of the season at Rio Tinto and the game equalizer. GRADE: B+
Kyle Beckerman (MID) Beckerman was at his best Saturday, both controlling the flow out of the backfield and playing the "plug" in the midfield on Colorado's building play. Real's best opportunity of the first half came in the 31st minute when Beckerman started the buildup in the middle of the field. He sent the ball wide and deep to a charging Robbie Findley, who then played the ball back into the middle at the 18 yard box, where Saborio flicked back to Beckerman, who sent a blistering shot goal-ward, but just wide and left. GRADE: A
Sebastian Velasquez (MID) Velasquez seemed to have put his game-losing mistake last week against D.C. United out of his mind, playing a tremendous game on Saturday. His confidence on the ball, his positioning and his hustle defense were key to creating what opportunities RSL could muster along the right side. GRADE: B+
Khari Stephenson (MID) Stephenson struggled to organize RSL's offensive attack in the first half. Aside from a decent shot from distance, Stephenson's play was marred by poor passes and poor marking on defense. He was subbed out at the half with a mild knee-sprain and replaced by Ned Grabavoy. GRADE: B-1 comment on this story
Robbie Findley (FWD) Findley was tough on Colorado's defense, torching the Rapids whenever it turned into a foot race. He found loads of space all through the first half with three opportunities to get in behind the defense. His best opportunity came in the 18th minute when Kyle Beckerman sent a ball over the top for Findley to run onto and try to chip the keeper, but he didn't have enough room to find the net. Findley was very strong in the second half as well, his combination of foot skills and speed down the left flank were just too much for Colorado's defense to handle. Unfortunately his three shots on goal never found their way past Colorado's rookie keeper. GRADE: B+
Alvaro Saborio (FWD) Saborio used his strength and size well, especially within the 18-yard box. He's known for his prowess in the air, but he showed that the combination of strength and foot skills in the box can be difficult for any defender. He was holding off bodies and delivering quality passes, the best of which came in the 31st minute when he received the ball from Sebastian Velasquez at the top of the 18-yard box. He held off his defender and slid a pass through to a charging Kyle Beckerman, who missed the goal wide left. Saborio saved the day in the 80th minute when he slotted a crafty right-footer past Clint Irwin to tie the game at one goal apiece. GRADE: A
Ned Grabavoy (MID, SUB) Grabavoy's sub was reportedly due to a mild knee-sprain on Stephenson, but the offense clearly clicked better when Grabavoy moved out to the left side and Luis Gil moved midfield. Grabavoy lost some steam late in the game and it was clear that his fitness is still an issue. Kreis mentioned it in the post-game press conference and noted plans to get Grabavoy back into shape for a full 90-minutes as soon as possible. Grade: B+
Jao Plata (FWD, SUB) Plata came on in the 66th minute for Robbie Findley, and it first seemed as though Kreis was giving up Findley's speed and size at a time when Findley was looking dangerous. But only minutes after his entrance, Plata, hiding amongst the defense in the 18-yard box, was in the right place to slot a perfectly weighted ball to Alavaro Saborio for his 80th minute goal. Saborio has three goals, two of which have been assisted by Jao Plata. Might there be a new one-two punch developing on the rebuilding RSL offense? GRADE: A