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Unlikely RSL result makes final match vital

Published: Sunday, Oct. 24 2010 3:25 p.m. MDT

Defender Jamison Olave and his RSL teammates could be on the cusp of winning the MLS Supporter's Shield and the top seed in the MLS Cup playoffs.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Defender Jamison Olave and his RSL teammates could be on the cusp of winning the MLS Supporter's Shield and the top seed in the MLS Cup playoffs. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

If you turned off Saturday's match between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids before the 90th minute, you probably felt safe in assuming the Rapids would hold onto their two-goal lead.

You were wrong.

Thanks to an embarrassing gaffe from Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, an unnecessary foul in the penalty area by Rapids defender Brian Mullen, and cool composure from RSL striker Alvaro Saborio, the Rocky Mountain Cup will stay in Utah for another year as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.

The unlikely result and its ramifications on the MLS Supporter's Shield race between RSL and the L.A. Galaxy have the U.S. soccer world buzzing.

Rapids coach Gary Smith called the result "farcical," criticizing referee Ricardo Salazar for calling a crucial penalty so late into stoppage time.

In an interview with the Denver Post, Mullen claimed he "got elbowed right before the kick, kind of shocked me" as an explanation for getting tangled up with Real defender Jamison Olave.

Even RSL players recognize how fortunate they were to escape with a tie.

"Did that really happen last night?" RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando posted on his Twitter profile Sunday. "By far not our best game and we know that...That said, I'm so proud of how we believed and responded to being two goals down."

Meanwhile, all eyes will be on the Galaxy's match with FC Dallas Sunday evening at 6 p.m. MDT. The Galaxy are currently tied with RSL in the standings, but a win or tie would vault them back into first place. A Galaxy loss gives Real the Shield based on tiebreakers.

Dallas has little to play for, as they are locked into the third seed in the Western Conference. But they can determine their playoff opponents. If they win, they can deny the Galaxy the top seed and avoid a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium in a matchup with RSL.

Former RSL striker Jeff Cunningham could be instrumental in the match, as MLSsoccer.com reports that Cunningham may start rather than fill his usual substitute role.

One way or another, it has been a record-setting season for Real Salt Lake, as they set league marks in fewest goals allowed and tied for best home record, going undefeated.

By Sunday night, they could add the franchise's first Supporter's Shield to the tally.

L.A. Galaxy vs. FC Dallas

Sunday, 6 p.m. MDT, at Home Depot Center, Carson, CA

TV: MLS Direct Kick

Online: MLS MatchDay Live

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