A royal welcome: Sold-out crowd watches RSL win historic home opener

In an atmosphere packed with red shirts, Real Salt Lake scarves and more than 25,000 rabid fans, RSL defender Brian Dunseth came forward into the 18-yard box for a set piece in the 81st minute-the game scoreless.

There he stood, beside RSL attackers Jason Kreis and Dipsy Selolwane and several Colorado Rapids. Newly re-mohawked midfielder Clint Mathis flighted the ball in from 40 yards on the right wing, watching the oblong object take a funny bounce in the 6-yard box near Kreis.

About three seconds later, Dunseth saw that bounce, took flight himself and connected on the game-winning diving header to give Real Salt Lake a 1-0 win over the rival Colorado Rapids at Rice-Eccles Stadium, its first in the short life of the franchise.

“It was a great day and a day I’ll never forget,” RSL owner David Checketts said. “The community was very supportive, the game was fun and exciting and we won, so it couldn’t be much better.”

The announced crowd of 25,287 is believed to be the biggest crowd to ever witness a pro sports event in Utah, according to RSL officials. Saturday’s attendance was nearly 1,000 more than Rice-Eccles Stadium’s soccer-friendly capacity of 24,496.

The rival Rapids started the suspense quickly in the 2nd minute, when Colorado defender Nat Borchers took a shot from the top of the 18-yard box.

RSL got their first chance at goal in the 19th minute, as “Laser” Luke Kreamalmeyer streaked down the right sideline to the corner, looping a pass into Kreis, who missed the scoring chance.

Kreamalmeyer was enjoying his first start of the season as a right wing, and showed well again in the 27th minute when he went into the 18-yard box, and was the recipient of a Mathis cross, again wide of the target. The score went level at the half.

Well into the second half, RSL was able to play balls into the middle of the unpredictable FieldTurf, and maintain possession.

In the 61st minute, Colorado decided to change things up, inserting Englishman Terry Cooke into the central midfielder position, which gave the Rapids a 4-5-1 alignment with one forward.

The change gave Colorado a much-needed attacking chance, which they used to the 73rd minute. RSL held tough though during that time, and had a few changes of their own, substituting a healthy Evan Whitfield for Chris Brown in the midfield, as well as newly acquired Trinidad international Leslie “Tiger” Fitzpatrick.

Former Rapids star Jordan Cila even entered the match in the 83rd minute after the lone goal of the match, but the last of the drama came and went when Cooke hammered a shot to the far post. RSL defender Rusty Pierce cleared the ball out of danger, however, preserving the clean sheet for Real Salt Lake goalie D.J. Countess, his second of the season, and giving RSL its first win in MLS.

For the match, Real Salt Lake outshot the Rapids 14-9.

“We started off better than we did in the first two games but still a little bit slower than we’re capable of doing,” Mathis said. “The last 15 to 20 minutes we picked up and then we brought that same intensity out in the second half. We kept pressuring them and we were bound to get a goal; we had chance after chance. The defense did a great job holding them to zero.”

RSL is at FC Dallas this Saturday at 6 p.m.

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Soccer ticket info

Tickets for the World Cup qualifier versus Costa Rica go on sale today at noon on www.ussoccer.com. The prices will range from $25 to $68 per person. They will also be available at the same time at www.utahtickets.com and at the U ticket office. Prices are $25 for north/south goals, $36 corner flags, $48 off-mid and $68 midfield. If you have a group of 20 or more, please call RSL at 1-800-9-SOCCER. RSL single-game tickets are still on sale, and can be purchased at the RSL Web site and at the U ticket office. Prices are $14 north goal, $18 corner flag, $25 premier east end and $32 for VIP west end. Fans should purchase the tickets well in advance of the match. Twenty-game season ticket packages are also available, including 15 MLS games, four special bonus games and the June 4 World Cup qualifier. Interested fans should go to RSL’s Web site or contact RSL’s ticket office at 1-800-9-SOCCER. Compiled by Brian Shaw