Sandy • Alvaro Saborio took a pleasant stroll and ended up with another uptick in his statline.
The Real Salt Lake forward’s soft tap in the 32nd minute came almost effortlessly, a go-ahead goal in Real’s 2-0 victory Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium over Colorado and a sixth straight Rocky Mountain Cup. Still, Saborio took the bulk of the credit only on paper.
Storylines RSL 2, Colorado 0RSL won its sixth consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup, given to the winner of the annual interstate series with the Colorado Rapids.
It was forward Fabian Espindola who did the heavy lifting, cutting off a terrible back pass and drawing a one-on-one matchup with Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens. With few options and no help, Pickens tackled Espindola and sent him tumbling into the air.
The ball, though, rolled on, slowly creeping across the front of the cage, where Saborio found himself all alone. With nothing between him and the net, he waited to see if goal would roll in for Espindola — then gave it a little nudge when it slowed.
The lone player to have appeared in all 22 RSL games, Saborio upped his team-leading total to 11 goals with the love tap. He and Espindola — who ranks second on the team with six — have combined for 12 of RSL’s 17 goals since May.
"Incredible hustle from our two forwards," said midfielder Ned Grabavoy.
The easy goal helped RSL (12-7-3, 39 points) break a defense that bent only through the first 20 minutes of play. Colorado (7-13-1, 22 points) midfielders Wells Thompson and Joseph Nane sat back to help its backline in a 4-5-1 formation. With All-Star midfielder Kyle Beckerman serving a red-card suspension, Real pressured hard, but couldn’t find holes early.
"We’re unlucky maybe not to create a little more than we did, but I thought Colorado was very disciplined," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "Sometimes you have to score goals in different ways."
The Rapids showed some loss of composure after the first goal, with midfielder Joseph Nane drawing a yellow card in the 45th minute with a foul on Javier Morales.
Real, on the other hand, was steady throughout. A 90th-minute goal by Will Johnson tacked a more emphatic celebration on a game that saw RSL take a 12-3 shot advantage.
With the backline almost entirely healthy with the return of Tony Beltran and Nat Borchers — both of whom missed a game with injuries — RSL had little trouble stifling the Rapids. Real held a 53.9 percent possession advantage in the first half, but even that wasn’t a full indicator of its dominance. The Rapids couldn’t do much with the ball even when they had it, settling for one missed shot through the first 45 minutes.
The caveat is that Colorado has now lost five straight games, two of which came against MLS bottom-feeders. While a Rocky Mountain Cup victory grants interstate bragging rights, it isn’t much of a statement win.
RSL entered the weekend 3-5-2 against teams with playoff-qualifying records. Although it is still technically in the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield, the team has struggled mightily in recent matchups against top-tier teams.
Whether the victory provides momentum against Vancouver on Friday remains to be seen.
"I think it’s a step in the right direction," Kreis said. "Obviously, we had a very good result two weeks ago and we came out and got our butts handed to us."
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