RSL rock Rapids for MLS Playoff berth, Rocky Mountain Cup

Posted on 25 October 2009 by Patrick McShane

Just a week ago it seemed as if RSL’s hope for a second consecutive playoff appearance appeared out of reach. They had just suffered a crushing 1-0 defeat on the road against Toronto FC and were heading home to face Rocky Mountain rivals, Colorado Rapids, in a must-win match. And yet, everything somehow came together Saturday night as RSL routed Colorado 3-0, in a one-sided, dominant affair. Coupled with Toronto’s breakdown against New York , D.C. United’s late draw against Kansas City, and Seattle victory over Dallas, RSL now find themselves as the 3rd or 4th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Needing at least a two-goal victory to claim the rivalry-based Rocky Mountain Cup, RSL knew that they had to be the aggressors from the opening whistle. It took RSL just 15 minutes to get on the scoring sheet after a bright offensive start to the match. After a close attempt on a free kick outside of the box, Andy Williams collected the ball and placed a perfect cross into the box to Fabian Espindola. Rather than challenge Colorado keeper Preston Burpo, Espindola chipped the ball back in front of goal for Robbie Findley to head home. The 18,675 fans in attendance erupted as their playoff hopes seemed revitalized due to some keen watching of the other crucial matches taking place simultaneously.

Though many felt optimism after the opening goal, the lead felt tenuous as both teams were chippy and physical in their play. Rather than buckle under surmounting pressure as they have over recent weeks, RSL responded with a second goal in the 35th minute as Williams again found a wide-open Findley with a pass over the top. Findley still had to some work to do with a sublime chip over Burpo for a casual left footed goal. Colorado seemed deflated entering half time and continued that mentality into the second half as they struggled to break down an energized RSL backline. Substitute Yura Movsisyan added an insurance goal in the 85th minute on a dazzling counter-attack, leaving the fans and team to celebrate another season series victory over Colorado as well as the hope of a playoff appearance.

While the victory and their aggressive play was crucial, RSL’s biggest victory of the evening came two hours after their match against Colorado, when Seattle Sounders defeated FC Dallas 2-1 at home. With the victory RSL is guaranteed a playoff spot as they now await the result of the New England/Columbus match this afternoon to determine their seeding and eventual opponent. Colorado will also be closely watching, as their playoff dreams rest on a New England defeat. Playoff pairings will be announced later this evening with RSL potentially facing reigning MLS Cup champion and Supporter’s Shield winning Columbus Crew or the enigmatic Chicago Fire at home next week. In the meantime, however, RSL will savor an impressive victory and a sweet ending to a tumultuous season.

Added coach Jason Kreis after the match: “We take satisfaction, we’re proud of this match. We can hold our heads high about coming out of this match and what we’ve done, and what we’ve done at home this season. It’s a real accomplishment.”


Rimando – While the offense for RSL was clicking, Rimando kept them in the match throughout the first half with a number of stellar saves. He’s been “Mr. Consistency” for RSL all season long.

Wingert – Played within the flow of the match and didn’t try to do too much. This is probably the best I’ve seen Wingert perform in over two months.

Borchers & Olave– After being announced as the team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year respectively, Borchers partnered with Olave to lead their best overall performance of the year. Both players silenced Conor Casey & Omar Cummings with physical, yet composed play. If they keep this impressive play up throughout the playoffs, RSL could be a dangerous team.

Beltran – I started out the year indifferent towards Tony, and have now ended the year a big fan. His defensive positioning and overall energy has improved throughout the year and he is showing signs of growth. Having just celebrated his 22nd birthday, Beltran still has a number of years ahead of him to have an impact in the league.

Williams – Fans have been clamoring for Williams to replace Mathis in the lineup for weeks now, and this time it paid dividends. Williams logged two assists (which he again predicted earlier this week on his Facebook page) and was the driving force on offense.

Johnson – While I’ve been critical of Johnson’s tangible results this season, his energy and work on the pitch are unmatched. Last night was the perfect example of how Johnson can influence a match without a earning a goal or assist.

Beckerman – I always laugh when I think how I used to hate Kyle Beckerman when he was on the opposing team in this rivalry. Now, I can’t imagine an RSL team without their all-around leader and organizer

Morales – Still struggling a bit in terms of offensive, but it’s been his defensive commitment in recent weeks that’s been most notable.

Espindola – Rather than disappoint fans with missed chances this week, Espy decided to be the provider of the first goal. I’ve always liked a two-man strike core with him and Findley and hope that coach Kreis continues this formation into the playoffs.

Findley – MOTM honors in my book. 12 goals for the season, 1st in goals for RSL, and third place in the MLS Golden Boot race. What an incredible season for Findley after many thought he was a one-trick pony just a season ago.

– I was pretty underwhelmed when the sub was made as I felt it decreased our offensive prowess. In the end, however, it was a sly substitution as it gave us more possession in the middle of the pitch and helped control Colorado’s offensive pressure.

Movsisyan – Despite the drama that came along with Yura’s pending departure, I for one can’t imagine a player with more game changing potential. I’m excited to see him produce more “Movsisyan Magic” in the playoffs.

Mathis – Please, Jason Kreis. Please keep Mathis as a late sub. His performance over the final 18+ minutes was the best I’ve seen Mathis play in recent weeks.


Colorado Rapids (10-10-10) vs. Real Salt Lake (11-12-7)
October 24, 2009 — Rio Tinto Stadium

Scoring Summary:
RSL — Robbie Findley 11 (Fabian Espíndola 3, Andy Williams 5) 15
RSL — Robbie Findley 12 (Andy Williams 6) 33
RSL — Yura Movsisyan 8 (Javier Morales 5) 85

Colorado Rapids — Preston Burpo, Drew Moor, Julien Baudet, Cory Gibbs (Pat Noonan 69), Jordan Harvey (Facundo Diz 87), Kosuke Kimura, Mehdi Ballouchy, Pablo Mastroeni, Nick LaBrocca, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings.

Real Salt Lake — Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran, Andy Williams (Ned Grabavoy 62), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Robbie Findley (Yura Movsisyan 62), Fabian Espíndola (Clint Mathis 72).

Misconduct Summary:
COL — Julien Baudet (caution; Tactical Foul) 18
RSL — Andy Williams (caution; Reckless Tackle) 25
RSL — Nat Borchers (caution; Reckless Tackle) 35
COL — Conor Casey (caution; Reckless Foul) 39
RSL — Kyle Beckerman (caution; Reckless Foul) 58
RSL — Yura Movsisyan (caution; Shirt Removal) 86

Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
Referee’s Assistants: Chris Strickland; Greg Boles
4th official: Ramon Hernandez
Attendance: 18,675/ Weather: Cloudy -and- 53 degrees

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  1. RSL have work cut out for them in playoff match-up with Crew | American Soccer News Says:

    […] Columbus Crew at Rio Tinto Stadium in the first leg of the MLS playoffs on Saturday night.  After pushing its way into the playoffs during the last weekend of the regular season, RSL is looking to play spoiler again when it faces […]

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