RSL takes second leg of Rocky Mountain Cup

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

An hour before kickoff Saturday night in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Kyle Brown’s game plan got flipped upside down.

With striker Fabian Espindola feeling pain in his groin, Brown received word from coach Jason Kreis that he would start.

Brown adjusted accordingly.

During driving rain, Real Salt Lake defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Brown’s game-winning strike in the 30th minute.

“I came in expecting to come off the bench, and I get the start,” Brown said. “I wasn’t quite expecting it, but you’ve got to be ready at any time.”

When Brown’s chance to give his team the lead came, he proved he was ready.

RSL forward Chris Brown worked the ball into the offensive third in the 30th minute and blasted a shot on goal from the left. Colorado goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul dove to make the one-handed save, but the rebound fell right to Kyle Brown, who sent the ball to the back of the net for the lead.

“I knew (Chris Brown) was going to take a shot, so as soon as he hit the shot, I just took off at the goal,” Kyle Brown said. “Before the game, we were talking about how (Coundoul) was going to drop a lot of balls. It’s slippery out, it’s wet, so I was…just hanging around the goal.”

Rain soaked the field for the entire match, making possession and goalkeeping all the more challenging.

“It’s difficult,” RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando said of the soggy conditions. “On some of the crosses I just wanted to punch it, just to be safe.”

Real’s one-goal lead was never safe.

Colorado battled the weather and RSL defense until the final whistle, pressing for an equalizing score. The Rapids are vying for a playoff spot, and the loss puts them further from where they want to be.

The final play of the match was a set play for the Rapids. A foul in Real’s defensive third created one last gasp for Colorado’s hopes to tie.

Jose Cancela took the free kick. After it bobbled around the mixer, Real managed to cleared the ball, and the final whistle sounded.

In the 85th minute, Cancela saw a similar opportunity to nearly level the score. Cancela’s free kick blazed into the box, and Rimando dove for the save. Omar Cummings blasted the rebound goal-ward, but Rimando recovered just in time to make a second sprawling save.

Rimando’s saves did more than preserve the win — they also propelled Real into contention for the Rocky Mountain Cup.

The trophy, awarded to the winner of the season series between RSL and Colorado, would have stayed in Colorado for a third straight year if the Rapids had won.

However, the victor will now be decided in the clubs’ final meeting in Commerce City, Colo., Oct. 20, concluding the regular season.

“We tried to stress to the players over the last couple of days that this was something for them to take away from the season,” Kreis said. “This is a chance to win a trophy.”

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