COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Alvaro Saborio's sneaky first goal is a testament to persistence.
The striker has made a habit all season of pressuring the opposing team's keeper. It's something Robbie Findley also does well.
The pressure usually amounts to nothing, and occasionally will lead to a poor clearance out of bounds. On Saturday it led to Real Salt Lake's first goal in the 90th minute.
"He does that type of stuff a lot. He sniffs those out. He did it all season," said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman.
As a former striker himself, RSL coach Jason Kreis said throwing yourself in front of the ball like he did isn't easy.
"He has an uncanny ability to pick up back passes, or passes in between defenders. He does a real good job of reading that. It's not a position for a weak-hearted person to throw his body at a goalkeeper who is clearing the ball fully," said Kreis.
After blocking Matt Pickens' clearance attempt in the 90th minute and redirecting it toward goal, Saborio thought for sure it was going to trickle over the crossbar. Instead it bounced off the crossbar and emphatically buried the rebound for his 18th goal of the season with Pickens lying helplessly tangled in the net.
RECORDS WATCH: RSL had a chance to set four MLS records heading into Saturday's match. It accomplished two of them.
Despite allowing two goals, it finished the season with only 20 goals against, breaking Houston's previous record of 23 in 2008. It also finished with an overall goal differential of plus-25, eclipsing the plus-22 mark by San Jose in 2005 and D.C. United in 2007.
The two records RSL didn't break were most shutouts in a season (15) and fewest road goals allowed (13). Kansas City holds the record for most shutouts with 16 in 2000, and D.C. United conceded the fewest road goals in 2007 with 12.
OFF HIS MARK: As expected, Will Johnson got the starting nod in Real Salt Lake's midfield Saturday, but he was hardly his usual self.
His touch was noticeably off and a good chunk of his passes ended up at the feet of Colorado players instead of RSL players. He was eventually replaced by Collen Warner in the 76th minute.
Kreis said he believes Johnson and Andy Williams suffered from their 90-minute performances against Cruz Azul on Tuesday.
"Those two players looked a little fatigued, but I think that's fair. That was an unbelievable emotional affair for us and those guys put a lot of energy into that game," said Kreis.
LESSON LEARNED: Real Salt Lake knows as well as anyone that a two-goal lead isn't safe. Earlier this summer in a CONCACAF Champions League match at Cruz Azul, RSL surrendered four goals in the final 20 minutes to go from 3-1 up to a 5-4 loss.
That loss was in the back of Kyle Beckerman's mind as Saturday night's match with Colorado unfolded.
"We learned a little something in that game down at Cruz Azul about a crazy finish," he said.
Continuing to plug away eventually paid off with two goals in stoppage time. Had there been a few more minutes on the clock, RSL might have bagged a winner.
LOOKING AHEAD: Entering the weekend, the possibility existed that Real Salt Lake could open the MLS playoffs facing either FC Dallas, Seattle or San Jose. That possibility is now down to two.
If Los Angeles loses to FC Dallas today at 6 p.m., RSL will open the playoffs facing Seattle. The teams tied both matches this year.
If L.A. wins or ties, RSL will face FC Dallas in an intriguing match-up since each team won its home game 2-0 this year.
Taking care of business at home will be key again. RSL is 0-8-0 all-time in Dallas, while RSL is on a 25-game unbeaten streak at home.
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