Commerce City, Colo. • The trouble started early.
The clock had yet to even reach the 10-minute mark in the first half by the time Real Salt Lake had given up a messy goal to its rival and squandered a chance to equalize.
For RSL coach Jason Kreis, the difference between Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids and a win was “a foot and a half.”
“I just really felt like the whole group was a foot and a half off, without the ball and with the ball,” Kreis said afterward. “As we’ve seen so many times before, it’s that last foot and a half of commitment that is often times the difference between winning and losing.”
Colorado Rapid Hendry Thomas started the sequence that would lead to the game’s only goal, finding a streaking Nick LaBrocca on the left side of the field. LaBrocca settled the pass with his chest and crossed the ball in to the box, where forward Edson Buddle held off a swarm of RSL defenders before finding Atiba Harris open for an easy score in the fifth minute.
“Somehow it just kind of nicked between all our guys right to a wide-open Atiba Harris, who had the whole goal to shoot at,” RSL keeper Nick Rimando said.
A number of things happened to hurt RSL on the goal: a player fell down, defender Nat Borchers said he allowed Buddle to turn his body too easily, help was late arriving.
For Kreis, again, it was a difference of inches.
“Last week we win that ball there,” he said. “There are enough players around there that somebody puts their foot in and makes an all-out commitment and we win the ball there. But we didn’t do it. We were close, but close wasn’t good enough tonight.”
The early goal knocked RSL back, but it also woke the team up, Rimando said.
“We started to play a little more after that,” he said.
Just five minutes after the goal, the referee would give Salt Lake a golden opportunity to tie it back up. A collision between RSL captain Kyle Beckerman and Rapid Dillon Powers led to a Real penalty kick.
Alvaro Saborio stepped up to the spot and tried to beat goalie Clint Irwin to his left. The keeper’s dive, however, pushed the ball off the post and the Rapids cleared the danger.
Saborio indeed provided RSL’s best offensive opportunities on the night.
Three times he had clear headers that he pushed wide of goal. On another occasion, his shot from the top of the box went straight at Irwin. And in stoppage time, Saborio’s scissor-kick shot off a Javier Morales pass was high, over the crossbar.
“It’s unbelievable,” Saborio said. “The ball just go to the keeper or wide. So I feel bad because we lost.”
“I thought that one goal wouldn’t be the difference in this game,” Borchers added. “I thought we would be able to come down and get another one, but it just wasn’t our night.”
R Colorado scores in the fifth minute, and goalkeeper Clint Irwin saves a penalty kick by RSL forward Alvaro Saborio five minutes later.
• Saborio misses several good chances — besides the penalty kick — to tie the game.
• Real hasn’t won in Colorado since 2007.