Real Salt Lake Emphatically Defeats Colorado Rapids Securing Rocky Mountain Cup In Process

Oct 16, 2021, 9:36 PM | Updated: 10:20 pm
Damir Kreilach celebrates his first half goal on October 16 against Colorado Rapids. Photo courtesy: Real Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Real Salt Lake beat the Colorado Rapids 3-1 at Rio Tinto Stadium to secure a much-needed three points and the Rocky Mountain Cup in their sixth to last game of the regular season as they continue to cement a playoff position.

“Extremely excited, more about the response of the group. The moment it becomes about me the behavior of our group here is compromised,” interim manager Pablo Mastroeni said when asked about how much he personally enjoyed the win. “I made sure it wasn’t about my old club and that it was about the players and the coaching staff we have here. I couldn’t be happier for this group as we continue to fight for the playoffs,” Mastroeni added.

Mastroeni opted for four changes from the loss against Austin two weeks ago by starting Andrew Brody, Everton Luiz, Maikel Chang, and Rubio Rubin.

Herrera To Kreilach, Again

It was the perfect start for Real Salt Lake who found themselves a goal ahead in the 13th minute following a Herrera assist and Damir Kreilach goal. It was the fifth consecutive game that Kreilach had scored in, breaking the Real Salt Lake record. Kreilach was previously tied with Luis Silva, Jeff Cunningham, and Álvaro Saborío who had scored in four consecutive games previously.

The assist from Herrera was his 10th of the season which ties Albert Rusnák for most assists on the team. Herrera leads all defenders in the league with assists.

“Going in we knew that Brody would be getting on the end of balls, so if he gets end line, he knew that I would be there for him. I had to be a little more defensive-minded but it all worked out,” Herrera said postgame.

To further exaggerate the effectiveness of Herrera, he was playing as the right-sided center back following the absentees of Marcelo Silva and Toni Datkovic.

Real Salt Lake continued to create goal-scoring chances throughout the first half frequently going through Albert Rusnák in the midfield to create. Colorado looked to be trying to attack on the counter in an effort to expose the space in their attacking third and as the minutes ticked on by the Rapids looks increasingly dangerous.

Fortunately, Real Salt Lake entered the main interval with the one-goal advantage having won 53% of the possession battle. The Rapids led the shot tally five to two while both teams only had one shot on target in the first half.

Second Half Stumble

The second half began in a slightly similar fashion to the first, minutes into the second, Pablo Ruiz found acres of space and unleashed a rocket from 25 yards that were destined for the top left corner of the net but a diving save by William Yarbrough denied the games second goal.

Then, Real Salt Lake doubled their lead against the Colorado Rapids in the 56th minute when Rubio Rubin slotted home a beautiful one-touch finish following an assist from Damir Kreilach.

The assist was just as special as the goal as Kreilach weighted the pass perfectly in behind the Rapids backline and onto the gliding feet of Rubin who opted to hit the shot with his first touch.

A scary moment unfolded in the 64th minute when David Ochoa fell on his head after being undercut by Rapids striker Diego Rubio, the medical staff immediately rushed onto the pitch, and fortunately Ochoa was deemed healthy enough to continue.

Shortly thereafter, the Rapids pressure began to pay off. In the 70th minute, the ball was pinballing around the Real Salt Lake penalty area but Colorado was unable to generate a shot on goal after multiple attempts hit teammates. The momentum was starting to turn and the Rapids looked a far more dangerous outfit.

Two minutes later, Jonothan Lewis beat Justen Glad down the right flank and had his shot ricochet off the arm of Ochoa and off the woodwork. However, the ensuing corner Colorado found their first goal when the cleared corner-kick fell to Danish playmaker Younes Namli who struck a shot that deflected off Kreilach and into the back of the net.

Mastroeni immediately went to his bench and brought on Anderson Julio for Rubio Rubin. Julio’s speed has frequently had an impact late in games when he has appeared off the bench. Most notably, his MLS Goal of the Week winning striker in the dying seconds against the LA Galaxy.

Two minutes into the allocated six minutes of stoppage time, Herrera, Brody, and Julio broke on a counter-attack following a Rapids corner kick. Herrara played Julio into goal who dribbled around Rapids goalkeeper Yarbrough but has his left-footed strike saved on the line by the outstretched legs of Auston Trusty.

But Julio was not done yet, in the 95th minute he nutmegged Yarbrough to put the icing on the cake and secure the three points. Julio’s addition off the bench once again paid dividends.

Fortunately, Real Salt Lake held on to the 2-1 victory and as a result, held onto their fifth position in the west, five points clear of LAFC who sits one spot shy of the playoff cut line. They narrowed the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Portland.

Real Salt Lake secured their 12th Rocky Mountain Cup since 2007, further exaggerating their dominance against rivals Colorado Rapids.

“It is unbelievable,” Kreilach said when asked about the chemistry of the team. “The second half of the season has been unbelievable. It doesn’t matter what quality you have if you don’t have the right mentality and we are really enjoying each other’s company as of late.”

Next Match

Real Salt Lake will get a week off before they travel to Chicago for a date with the Fire. The fixture will prove as only the second game all season that Real Salt Lake will play an Eastern Conference opponent. The first came on May 15th when the two played to a nil-nil draw at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Real Salt Lake and Chicago will kick off at 6 p.m. and will be available to stream for free via the KSL Sports & KSL 5 TV app or on KSL Sports dot com.


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