Well for Real Salt Lake the goal was simple play better than they had on Wednesday and then pick up a win in first match of the Rocky Mountain Cup against Colorado. It was more difficult than expected as the Rapids went with a much more defensive look than they had in recent weeks and attempted to follow the example of other teams who have tried to clog the midfield against RSL, thankfully for RSL Tony Beltran had a great night where he was able to pick up assists on both of the RSL goals. I thought RSL played well for 65-70 minutes and then a couple of defensive minded subs to counter the offensive moves made by the Rapids, it paid off with a win.
This was the first time this year when RSL struggled with possession (mostly in the second half) and ended up with just 48.6%, just 79% on passing accuracy, RSL did take 13 shots with 4 on goal, which was good enough for the win. It was an impressive first half for RSL as they adjusted quickly to the adjusted formation of the Rapids, the first goal was a great one as RSL was able to get the ball to Tony Beltran who was able to deliver it just over the back line of the Rapids and it found Alvaro Saborio who was able to bring it down and put it past Matt Pickens, to give RSL the 1-0 lead.
The second half saw RSL come out quickly again and in the 57th minute they took a 2-0 lead on a controversial goal where Fabian Espindola appears to have handled the ball, and where Marvell Wynne may actually have had the last touch on it. There actually were a number of handballs on both ends of the pitch that seemed to missed by Jair Marrufo who was very inconsistent on the night (something we see far too often in MLS). In the end it was a 2-0 win for RSL who now move to 5-1-0, not a bad mark for 6 matches in.
more thoughts after the jump:
So I picked the starting XI for this match and it was easy given injuries and the expected way that RSL thought the Rapids would play, the match did see the return of Sebastian Velasquez to the lineup after missing the 18 man roster the last couple of weeks and it was as if he never missed a minute. He brought a boost of energy and some creativity that helped RSL deal with the crowed midfield tactic of the Rapids, it was exactly what RSL needed.
I thought Fabian Espindola again showed why he has to be considered one of the top offensive players in MLS, he was all over the place on both sides of the ball and created a number of quality chances on goal, no matter how his goal is counted he did what he needed to do the entire match. Alvaro Saborio had a very good night, he got into some very dangerous positions and the Rapids are lucky he didn't get more than one goal on them tonight. Late in the match RSL was able to bring in Emiliano Bonfigli who can now say he has played in a MLS match.
What can you say about the group of RSL midfielders tonight, despite playing against 5 men, they were able to do some great things, Will Johnson is clearly getting his form back as he made some great passes and was all over the place making both offensive and defensive plays, only a super save by Pickens kept him from opening up the scoring on Saturday. Luis Gil may only be 18 years old but he played well beyond his age tonight, and I am very thankful given the injury to Javier Morales that Luis has decided to forgo the upcoming U20 camp to remain with RSL, he is establishing himself as a real team first guy. Then there is Kyle Beckerman, a guy who has never been on the losing end of a Rocky Mountain Cup series, he battled hard and himself was just inches from finding the back of the net tonight. Both of RSL's midfield subs did what they were expected to, help shore up the defense from the pending Rapids attack, both Jonny Steele and Yordany Alvarez (who got his first minutes of 2012) did just what was needed, a solid effort.
The RSL defense was able to help Nick Rimando pick up another clean sheet, Jamison Olave was a beast and made several huge plays tonight, Nat Borches is Mr. Steady and simply continues to amaze me with consistency every time he is on the pitch. Most nights it is Chris Wingert who is called upon to make the offensive runs and try to support the attack, and while he did some of that tonight, he was more involved in staying back and supporting the overall defensive effort. Nick Rimando was simply Nick Rimando, a rock solid performer each week, oh so impressive when he needs to be.
So that brings me to my "Man of the Match", Tony Beltran, not only was he there to make some amazing plays on defense, something we know that he is more than capable of doing but tonight he showed his offensive prowess by playing provider on both of the RSL goals. I am not sure what it will take over the next couple years to get the attention of Jurgen but if anyone has an in with him, he is nuts not to get Tony into a camp in the future and take a look at what he can do.
Tonight the team got the win, the team was the star, that is just the way Real Salt Lake likes it.
OFF MY SOAPBOX