By JUSTIN FERGUSON
Alvaro Saborio’s 80th minute goal helped Real Salt Lake earn a 1-1 draw with rival Colorado in the first leg of this season’s Rocky Mountain Cup series.
The late strike from the veteran goalscorer erased a Colorado lead that was created by rookie Deshorn Brown in the 37th minute.
The equalizing play from RSL started with two hustle plays from Luis Gil. The young midfielder kept the ball alive for his side twice before it fell to substitute striker Joao Plata. Saborio collected a pass from Plata seconds later and slotted it past Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who was having a dream MLS debut.
Both teams pushed hard for a winner in the final minutes of the match, but both Irwin and RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando stayed strong to preserve the draw.
Irwin, who was playing for his hometown USL club Charlotte this time last season, came on in the sixth minute of the match after starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens left the game with a broken right forearm. Pickens’s arm collided with the head of RSL defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe on an early corner kick, and the goalkeeper immediately went down to the turf. Irwin became the third goalkeeper used by Colorado in the early season.
While RSL searched for the first goal using the club’s trademark possession-based style, Colorado used the speed of its front three to create opportunities on the counter. Brown became the focal point of a few attacks in the first half-hour, but his early shots sliced wide of the target.
The rookie forward eventually broke through for the Rapids in the 37th minute, forcing a deep Chris Schuler turnover. Brown then used his speed to breakaway from the RSL back line and get one past Rimando for the goal, his first as a professional.
RSL started the second half with a bit more urgency in attack, forcing Irwin to come off his line and make some key stops. The debuting goalkeeper made a great save on a Tony Beltran rebound in the 64th minute.
The home side would finally beat Irwin in the 80th minute with the Gil-to-Plata-to-Saborio connection. Colorado charged forward for a winner with one minute left, but Atiba Harris’s rocket was chested down by Rimando.
Saborio came close to a winner in the final scoring chance of the match. The forward’s quick header from a Kyle Beckerman long ball skewed just wide of Irwin’s post. Both teams then traded possession in the middle of the field until the final whistle.
The draw moves Real Salt Lake to 1-1-1 and gives an 0-2-1 Colorado its first point of the young season. The rivals will both hit the road next Saturday—RSL visits FC Dallas while Colorado travels to face the Galaxy.
Here are the match highlights: