When Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids rekindled their heated rivalry last week, you had two teams coming in with very different moods. Real Salt Lake was fresh off a victory while the Rapids were smarting after a tough loss to Houston. It seemed like a good opportunity for Real Salt Lake to send Colorado tumbling down the West standings while moving themselves up.
Things didn’t quite work out that way.
The Rapids regrouped, played stingy defense and benefited from a handball resulting in a penalty kick much like the handball they were punished for a week earlier. The result was a 2-0 Rapids victory that has Colorado in first place and RSL trying to figure out what went wrong.
SBI Correspondents Craig de Aragon and Scott McAllister took in the action and shared their views with us:
Rapids get a hand with win
By CRAIG de ARAGON
You knew it was going to happen right? As soon as I wrote the last week’s article, I knew that this would happen. A week after pleading for leniency over a controversial handball in the box at Houston, the Rapids found themselves the beneficiaries of the same penalty this week, albeit under very different circumstances.
With the Rapids up 1-0, Herculez Gomez received a bouncing pass and chipped it over RSL defender Matias Mantilla. Well, it should have been over him but Mantilla reached his arm out and stopped the ball while standing in the penalty area. A clear penalty to call; easy to call from the run of play, but replays showed how egregious it was. Mantilla initially put his arm out, and then retracted it with a look of guilt on his face, only to reach out again and grab the ball anyway. It was the right call. If he hadn’t done it, Herculez would have been in on goal with only the keeper to beat. After all the obligatory arguing, to no avail, Christian Gomez sealed the Rapids victory by converting the penalty kick.
This game wasn’t all about that penalty. It was a well played game from the Rapids perspective. Head Coach Fernando Clavijo once again toyed with the line ups and formation. I don’t’ know what’s going on with Clavijo, but it seems like whatever changes he makes or whatever formations he uses this year are working. That never happened in the past. I’m not even going to question it, in fear of breaking up the mojo he has going.
One magical move Clavijo conjured up was to utilize a three-man defense. I was skeptical with this one; I didn’t think it was a good idea to take a defender out against a team that had scored two goals each of its last two games. I was proven wrong. The Rapids defenders are so athletic that they handled the challenge with ease. In fact the defenders sprung the attack and came forward with surprising efficiency too.
At one point Kosuke Kimura had a give and go with Gomez and was in on the goal, nothing came of it, but as the camera focused in on Kimura as he tracked back down the field, he was laughing and seemingly surprised he had an opportunity that far up the field. Or maybe he was laughing because Kyle Beckerman is Salt Lake’s best player, or because Dr. Goals is a quack. Either way, a win over the team from the wrong side of the Rockies was regal.
With the victory the Rapids now sit on the throne of first place in the West, have the first leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup taken care of, and look forward to piling on a struggling Chivas team next week, hopefully this time without a controversial penalty kick.
RSL still anything but road warriors
By SCOTT McALLISTER
The opening of Real Salt Lake’s stadium later this year may not be good for RSL’s record. As they continue to show this year, playing on grass may be too much for them to handle. Or maybe the white road kits are harder to pick out when making the quick pass. Whatever the reason, Real Salt Lake cannot seem to buy a win away from Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Such was the case on Thursday night when RSL traveled to Colorado. Not only was it the first match of this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup, but it was also an opportunity for Salt Lake to move to the top of the Western Conference table. As odd as that might sound, I think it’s more an example of how much the west is struggling rather than RSL doing all that well. Their performance against the Rapids is a great example of that.
After the match head coach Jason Kreis mentioned that his team wasn’t ready to be a first place team. As discouraging as that is, RSL didn’t move the ball like a first place team. Their team defense was sketchy at best. And a first place team should be challenging the opposing goalkeeper, no matter where you’re playing. The stats say that RSL had three shots on frame, but the only critical save that they forced from Bouna Coundoul came in the final moments on Fabian Espindola’s free kick – Kenny Deuchar’s header in the first half was going wide.
The lack of shots on goal is concerning because Deuchar was getting service in Colorado. They may not have all been easy scoring chances, but he certainly could have done better at putting his headers on target. I also foresee Jamson Olave getting the start in place Matias Mantilla next week. It’s not because of the handball in the box that lead to the PK, but rather for Mantilla’s lazy clearances out of the back.
With not a lot of positives to take away from the match, RSL can be glad that it’s over and look ahead to next week. Their competition doesn’t get any easier as this was the first of a three-game road trip, which includes a trip to Dallas and then on to Columbus for the U.S. Open Cup.