Here are three takeaways from Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
1. RSL would have lost or drawn if not for Nick Rimando
Make no mistake about it: RSL deserved to beat the Whitecaps and finish third in the Western Conference. After the past few weeks of overcoming front office turmoil and emotional tributes to retiring players, the team buckled down and did what it needed to do.
But boy did Real get lucky. That game should have been 2-1 in favor of Vancouver. Or at least 2-2. Either result would have put RSL in fifth place with a road playoff game.
But the retiring Nick Rimando just wouldn’t let it happen. There were two saves in the second half that if he doesn’t grab, they go in.
The first came on a cross into the box that found the head of Michaell Chirinos, who put the ball on frame at the near post. Rimando dove to his right and got both hands on it, but it took maximum effort.
The second one was probably the craziest. In the 69th, it was another shot on goal by Chirinos, this time in a 1-on-1 situation against Rimando. Chirinos shot to Rimando’s right, and the RSL goalkeeper dove. He got just enough of his glove on the ball to force it into the post and not the net.
That second save is where the luck comes in for RSL. That ball hit the post and rolled down the entire mouth of the goal, just an an inch or two away from the goal line. All of that combined doesn’t happen very often at all. Nine times out of 10, that ball pings the post and goes in.
But it didn’t, because Decision Day. And Rimando, too.
2. Rimando will get at least one more game at Rio Tinto
Much was made about the legendary goalkeeper’s last regular-season home game. There was a huge buildup. He was named Man of the Match after RSL beat Houston. There was something of a farewell press conference the week leading up to the game.
But beating Vancouver and getting help from other teams in the Western Conference means Rimando gets another potentially last home game. He celebrated that fact on Twitter soon after the final whistle.
But what does that mean for the all hoopla a couple of weeks ago? Does Rimando do more interviews about his retirement? Will people from around the league record another round of farewell videos? The answer is no.
It makes sense to honor a legend on the final home game of the regular season because of the unknown that surrounds a knockout-round-style postseason. And there were plenty of scenarios that would have rendered Real on the road to start the playoffs.
Instead, RSL, Rimando and the fans get to be together for yet another home game at the RioT. And that’s good. It just also makes all the celebrating and honoring just a little premature in retrospect.
3. RSL has its work cut out for it with Portland
This won’t be too long of a takeaway, but it’s important: RSL is not a good team when it plays Portland.
There will be a more detailed breakdown of the Timbers on the horizon. But for right now, it’s important to understand that Salt Lake played Portland three times in 2019 (once in preseason, twice during the season) and lost every time. It lost both games against the Timbers in 2018 as well.
In 2017, however, RSL beat Portland twice. So there’s a sliver of hope there. But in the last four regular season games, Real have been walloped, 10-2.
These next two weeks will be crucial from a preparation standpoint, and it helps that RSL are at home. But can they exorcise some demons against the Timbers in a winner-take-all scenario? We’ll see.