By: Jae Groll
The theme of last minute goals in Rocky Mountain Cup games continued Wednesday night. On what can only be described as a miserable evening in Sandy Utah, Real Salt Lake beat the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on a last second goal from Fabian Espindola.
The wind was blowing and the mix of snow and rain made conditions extremely undesirable Wednesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium. The wind was blowing length wise across the pitch so both teams were either fighting against it or fighting with it. It made for an ugly affair.
The rivalry between these two teams is intense and even without catalyst Pablo Mastroeni it was a chippy affair on the pitch. Several bone crunching tackles were leveled by each team and many incidents of contact were let go by center referee Baldomero Toledo.
The first half was a stop and start affair with neither team able to gain any rhythm. The teams were only able to muster a few real chances between them.
Colorado midfielder Jamie Smith fired a hard shot straight at RSL keeper Nick Rimando at the 16 minute mark from the top of the box. The dipping shot was no easy save for Rimando.
For RSL, Nat Borchers headed just wide of the left post on 17′. Javier Morales missed high on a free kick from 20′ off the left angle to close out the first half of play.
The second half was much of the same and the game looked destined to be a nil-nil affair until lightning struck with roughly 30 seconds left in stoppage time.
A foul by the Rapids well outside the edge of their own area off the right angle set up Morales to try his luck once again, this time into the the gusting wind. Morales curled a beautiful shot over the wall that struck the right post. Paulo Araujo Jr. tapped the rebound forward and in flew a sliding Fabian Espindola to score the game winner. In all fairness to the Rapids Espindola could have been flagged for offside on the touch from Paulo Jr.
RSL head coach Jason Kreis wasn’t surprised about the last second goal. “It’s absolutely remarkable how many times the games are being decided against Colorado in the last minutes.” the coach remarked.
The win takes RSL to the top of the MLS table as the only undefeated team in the opening salvos of the season. Next up for RSL is the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Finals in Monterrey Mexico one week from today. Colorado have 9 days to lick their wounds and get ready for the Sounders on the April 22nd.
Man of the Match: Fabian Espindola would have won top honors even without the miracle goal at the end. He was a terror for the Rapids defense all game long. His work rate and determination were unmatched by anyone else on the pitch. Kreis voiced his admiration for his strikers performance in the post game press conference. “I’m really really pleased when someone who works so extremely hard is the one that ends up being the one that makes the difference in the end of the game.” Kreis said.
Weather Woes: This was a game for all seasons. Literally. It started out breezy and warm and became blustery and rainy. By the end of the game it was a mini blizzard. A common colloquialism in many parts of the country is “If you don’t like the weather wait 10 minutes.” It could never have been more appropriate than tonight.