Last week Real Salt Lake striker Sam Johnson wasn't happy.
He felt his team wasn't trusting him in RSL's home loss to the Timbers.
This week the Liberian national team striker, who is playing his first season for RSL, showed early on that this game was better. In the seventh minute, Sebastian Saucedo sent in a teasing ball and — despite being cleared by defenders just before it could get to him — Johnson flashed him the thumbs-up sign.
Johnson and RSL created havoc in the Colorado Rapids' defensive third for most of the game, pushing the team to a 3-2 victory in Commerce City, Colorado, on Saturday night.
Johnson's goal in the second half broke a 2-2 tie and handed the Rapids their eighth straight loss.
The final minutes featured a lot of close calls as Colorado had one goal wiped out on a close offside call and had a possible penalty reviewed, but not given.
"The guys put it together; Sam stepped up and scored," RSL goalkeeper Andrew Putna said on the television broadcast after the game. "We’re really happy to get the win. Nervy game for sure."
Putna preserved the 3-2 lead in the 57th minute with a sliding save on Kei Kamara's penalty shot. The Rapids' striker tried to shoot up the middle, but Putna was ready for it.
After the game RSL head coach Mike Petke said he was relieved to see the save: "Andrew did well, he had a big stop there."
Last week, Real's Albert Rusnak had his own penalty shot saved in the team's 2-1 loss at home to Portland.
This week he got a chance at redemption when Saucedo was taken down in the box by 16-year-old American defender Sebastian Anderson in the 21st minute. The referee initially signaled for just a corner kick, but after review he pointed to the spot.
Rusnak made no mistake on this attempt, blasting the ball past Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard. The former U.S. Men's National Team starter got a touch to the ball, but not nearly enough.
"PKs — you either score or miss.," Rusnak said. "I missed last week, and I scored this week. So, it bothered me last week but the next day I forgot about it, and I’m happy that I scored this week.”
RSL didn't let up on the winless Rapids (0-9-2) and scored again just two minutes later.
Striker Corey Baird scored his first goal of the season on a clever out-side-of-the-boot shot. Baird got behind the defense by gathering Nick Besler's outstanding long ball with a great first touch.
And just like that RSL had a 2-0 lead, but it seemed to be deserved as the visitors were the better side early on.
"We controlled the game in the first 30 minutes," Petke said. "We could have put them away."
But they didn't.
Colorado scored in second minute of first-half stoppage time and in the second minute of the second half to level the match at 2-all.
First, Kellyn Acosta cleaned up a loose ball in the box with a hard shot between the scrambling Putna's legs. The second goal came off a corner kick. Sam Nicholson redirected Jack Price's service with a near-post header that was saved off the line only to be easily put in by Danny Wilson.
Luckily RSL (4-6-1) didn't have to wait long to be back out in front. Just six minutes later, midfielder Damir Kreilach hit Johnson with a short cross on the ground. Johnson was off balance when he received the ball, but calmly collected the pass before smashing through Lalas Abubakar's legs and past the wrong-footed Howard.
"Phenomenal third goal," Petke said. "I'll say this maybe never, but I thought the refs handled the game really well."
There wasn't any controversy with Johnson's goal, but RSL had three video reviews go in its favor. First with Saucedo's penalty, then with a rescinded red card to Justen Glad and finally when a possible hand ball in the box by Besler late in the second half was deemed not to be intentional.Comment on this story
“It had everything. Hard work and quality going forward," Rusnak said. "The effort and runs going forward and we knew when to possess the ball and when to go long. All of that with a little bit of luck we were able to get the win."
With the victory, RSL moves up to seventh place in the Western Conference and improves to 6-1-1 in its last eight games against its Rocky Mountain Cup rivals. The two teams will clash again on Aug. 24 in Rio Tinto Stadium.
More pressing for Real is next Saturday's game against Toronto FC. RSL is hosting the 5-4-1 club at the Riot, starting at 1 p.m.