SANDY — Real Salt Lake hasn’t lost to rival Colorado at home since, well, since home was Rice-Eccles Stadium and Kyle Beckerman was still a Rapids midfielder.
That streak was in serious jeopardy throughout Saturday’s home opener thanks to some dodgy first-half defending, but craftiness by newcomer Joao Plata and more late heroics from Nick Rimando helped keep the dominant streak alive.
Plata set up Alvaro Saborio’s 80th-minute equalizer, and then Rimando made a point-blank save in the 89th minute as Real Salt Lake rallied for a 1-1 draw against Colorado in front of a sell-out crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We want to get Ws at home, so a tie wasn’t good enough,” said Rimando, who quickly added, “but a tie when you’re down is OK.”
The draw helped RSL improve to 1-1-1 this season, and even though there were certainly offensive and defensive struggles, coach Jason Kreis reiterated the need to be patient throughout the 2013 season.
“As I keep telling the guys, we’re just looking to improve day by day and week by week. We’re a young team and a new team and that has to be our objective. We want to be our best at the end of the season,” said Kreis.
A couple of substitutes made the difference on Saturday.
Ned Grabavoy made his 2013 debut at halftime and helped settle things down in the midfield, and Plata came on and once again added an impressive spark to the attack.
In the season opener at San Jose, Plata entered the game in the 65th minute and helped set up Saborio’s first goal. That’s exactly what he did on Saturday, entering the game in the 65th minute and providing the assist for Saborio’s tying goal.
“All three of the matches, Plata has come on and given us a little bit of energy and given us a little bit of a different look and has been a dangerous player, so I’m pleased,” said Kreis.
The goal ended a 404-minute scoring drought at home for Real Salt Lake dating back to Sept. 22.
RSL had plenty of chances to strike first throughout the opening half — particularly Robbie Findley who was making his home debut after a two-year hiatus in Europe.
He sprayed a breakaway shot over the crossbar in the 18th minute, and then in the 31st minute he hesitated to pull the trigger on another breakaway, with the opportunity quickly fizzling out.
“I just got to do better on my end. My teammates delivered the ball, and I just need to be more focused on my part,” said Findley.
Despite the missed opportunities, Findley was much better on the ball than in the previous two games and put himself in numerous dangerous spots on the field. Kreis said it’s important that he builds on that heading into next week’s game at FC Dallas, another team RSL has never beat on the road.
Colorado opened the scoring in the 37th minute on Saturday, with rookie Deshorn Brown capitalizing on one of several defensive miscues for RSL.
Brown swiped the ball from RSL defender Chris Schuler in a dangerous spot about 25 yards from a goal, and two dribbles later found himself all alone in the box with only Rimando to beat. He calmly slotted the ball past RSL’s keeper for the 1-0 lead.
Brown had a golden opportunity to double the lead in the 39th minute after another defensive miscue, but Rimando came up with the clutch save, one of five on the night.
After Saborio equalized in the 80th minute, Real Salt Lake didn’t let off the gas.
Five minutes before the goal Kreis had replaced defender Lovell Palmer with rookie striker Devon Sandoval, and Kreis has been adamant through the years that RSL will never settle for a tie at home. So with three strikers already on the field, RSL continued to push forward.
Thanks to Rimando, who saved a wicked close-range shot by Atiba Harris off his chest in the 89th minute, the philosophy didn’t cost RSL a point.
“Credit to Nick Rimando for saving us a point tonight,” said Kreis.
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