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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Rio Tinto Stadium was sold out as Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids play to a 1-1 tie in the home opening game of the MLS soccer season Saturday in Sandy.

SANDY — Ned Grabavoy missed the first two games of the season for Real Salt Lake while attending to family matters, but on Saturday he made his 2013 debut. It was a strong debut as well.

After replacing injured midfielder Khari Stephenson, who suffered a mild knee sprain in the first half, Grabavoy played a critical role in helping settle down RSL’s midfield in the second half against the increasingly compact Rapids.

“I thought it was the exact right type of game for Ned. Knew it was going to be difficult to find gaps and spaces to play in. We needed another mature player who’s been in our system a while to figure things out and push things along for us in the second half,” said RSL coach Jason Kreis.

After the match, Kreis said it was pretty clear that Grabavoy’s fitness level isn’t where needs to be because of his time away from the team. It’s something he’ll really focus on in hopes of having Grabavoy 90-minutes fit for next week’s match in Dallas.

Despite playing just the final 45 minutes against Colorado, Grabavoy got an extra 45 minutes of work as Colorado and RSL also played a Reserve League game after the first team match.

Grabavoy played both games with the name “Grabavoys” on his jersey as a tribute to his family.

AWKWARD BEGINNING: Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Cup clash got off to a bit of a somber start as Colorado keeper Matt Pickens suffered a broken left forearm.

The incident occurred in just the second minute on a corner kick. Pickens came off his line to punch the ball away, but immediately after punching the ball defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe’s head collided with Pickens’ arm and broke it.

“It’s something that’s very sad. You never want to see another player hurt another player. It’s traumatic. It sucks,” said Watson-Siriboe.

Backup keeper Clinton Irwin replaced Pickens to make his MLS debut.

ON AN ISLAND: Throughout the years, one of Kreis’ core philosophies has been that Real Salt Lake always expects to win at home. He never wants to be content with a draw.

That was again the case on Saturday after Alvaro Saborio’s 80th-minute equalizer.

Having already taken off a defender to push forward for the tying goal, RSL didn’t let up and relentlessly attacked in the final 10 minutes despite the 1-1 score. That put a lot of pressure on remaining defenders Watson-Siriboe, Chris Schuler and Tony Beltran to fight off Colorado’s counter attacks.

Watson-Siriboe didn’t mind whatsoever.

“We’re there to defend, simple as that. What happens in front of us, the forwards are there to score goals, and we’re supposed to sit there and make sure they don’t score any goals,” he said.

RIMANDO HONORED: Prior to the start of Saturday’s match, RSL keeper Nick Rimando was honored in front of fans for earning his 100th career shutout in the season opener two weeks ago at San Jose.

He was joined on the field by RSL management as well as family, and was presented with a framed jersey commemorating the achievement.

Kevin Hartman owns the league record with 112 shutouts.