by TYLER GRAY
The stage was set and all it took was a last-minute save for NIck Rimando to etch his name in the history books.
Real Salt Lake scored an early goal through the feet of midfielder Javier Morales and then held on for dear life the rest of the match, playing practically the entire second half down a man thanks to a red card earned by defender Aaron Maund. They won the match, 1-0, over the Colorado Rapids thanks to some key defensive performances.
The second half certainly was interesting for RSL.
Just two minutes after the break, the Rapids used some clever passing to spring Vicente Sanchez in behind RSL’s backline. Maund clattered into the veteran forward from behind and was shown a red card for his challenge.
It was Maund’s second red card in just eight days, after receiving one a little over a week earlier in a reserve match.
The visitors were lucky that they were ahead, however, thanks to a 14th minute strike from Morales, but it was Chris Wingert that deserves the lion’s share of the praise.
The former Rapids defender’s hustle single-handedly created the opportunity for RSL when he chased down a 50/50 ball. Wingert slid and won the ball, dribbling into the box and laying his pass off perfectly for the Argentine who slipped a low shot into the back of the net making it 1-0.
The Rapids continued to pressure higher and higher up the pitch as the second half wore on but RSL held on thanks in large part to some excellent defensive plays from both Nat Borchers, substitute Carlos Salcedo and lastly Rimando himself.
Colorado had one last big chance in the 94th minute when Deshorn Brown received the ball just outside the box. The Rapids forward flashed a shot but RSL’s reliable backstop was equal to the challenge, batting the ball away and scrambling to smother his spill before an opposing player could arrive.
RSL secured the Rocky Mountain Cup and a historic record but it feels like the gritty, hard-fought three points were the most valuable of all. The win also means that RSL will maintain their second place spot in the Western Conference for at least a little longer.