All tied up

The situation looked oddly familiar, but the consequences could have been much worse. With just a minute of stoppage time left in Saturday’s showdown between the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake, Columbus forward Kei Kamara found himself with a chance to snap a stalemate and give his club its first victory of the season.

Unlike last week, when RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando was beaten by a header in the waning seconds that turned a 2-1 advantage into a disappointing draw, Rimando closed on the header just in time Saturday, preserving the scoreless tie as RSL earned another point, but failed once again to register its first win of 2007.

“I think we learned from last week and we didn’t want that to happen again and you could see everybody tracking back at the end,” RSL forward Jeff Cunningham said. “I think we did a good job defensively at the end.”

It was the second such chance for Kamara, who similarly found a crease in RSL’s defense in the 74th minute but didn’t have enough space to get anything past Rimando.

RSL opened up its season with a favorable schedule, playing its first two games at home at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and four of its first five. But the team has yet to fully capitalize on the opportunity. While last week’s ballgame ended in disappointing fashion, RSL certainly showed it could compete with the likes of FC Dallas, one of the league’s top teams from last season.

But the offensive tenacity that was on display in the season opener wasn’t there this weekend. While neither club scored, Rimando had to work a bit harder for his shutout than did Columbus’ Andy Gruenebaum.

“I think Columbus did a good job tactically, as well,” Cunningham said. “They didn’t allow us to penetrate to the back line.”

In addition to his stoppage save on Kamara’s scoring chance, Rimando made two diving stops in the second half on shots that could have dramatically turned the tide in the Crew’s favor. After RSL failed to convert on two direct free kicks within the span of six minutes, Columbus went on the attack. Eddie Gaven had a solid look inside the box, but Rimando stopped his attempt just in front of the right post.

“He played very well,” said RSL head coach John Ellinger. “I mean, Nick (Rimando) is a great goalkeeper. He’s so quick he cuts down the angle.”

Eleven minutes later, Columbus midfielder Ned Grabavoy had a similar chance, but once again Rimando came through with a diving stop to end the threat.

“Anything you do, anything you practice, the more you play, you get more and more comfortable and you get a little bit better,” Rimando said. “I expect that from myself, I expect that from the team and as each week goes on we will be a great team. We’re happy with the clean sheet, and we’ll go out and get more.”

RSL stays at home this week to face off against the Kansas City Wizards in a U.S. Open Cup meeting before heading out on the road to take on Chivas USA on Saturday night.