SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Rocky Mountain Cup is coming back to Utah.
Damir Kreilach, Rubio Rubin and Anderson Julio all scored goals, as Real Salt Lake won its 7th straight home match, defeating the Colorado Rapids, 3-1.
RSL has now won the Rocky Mountain Cup 12 times in 17 seasons.
Damir Kreilach scored for a team-record fifth consecutive game and brought his team-leading total to 14 goals, in helping Real Salt Lake move closer to securing a playoff spot.
Kreilach also assisted Rubio Rubin’s eventual winner in the 57th minute and Anderson Julio’s late insurance tally as Salt Lake (12-11-6, 42 points) won its seventh consecutive home match to maintain its grip on sixth place in the race for seven Western Conference playoff spots.
“I am very happy about the three points and very proud of the team,” Kreilach said. “At the end of the day, it was doubled in this game. The trophy was on the line and there were also three points on the line. We took everything and we’re very happy to bring the Rocky Mountain Cup back home where it belongs. It was overall a great performance. In the first half, we did exactly what we wanted. We scored an early goal then had control of the game. In the second half, we did even better.”
Goalkeeper David Ochoa survived a scary collision with Colorado striker Diego Rubio and made two saves as Salt Lake secured a second consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup.
The Rapids (14-6-9, 51 points) had won the previous four such trophies, awarded to the winner of the regular season series between these rivals.
Younes Namli pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute for Colorado on a ferocious half-volley that redirected off Kreilach on its way past Ochoa.
Michael Barrios and Jonathan Lewis also both struck the goal frame moments before Namli’s goal as the Rapids missed a chance to clinch a playoff berth and move into second in the West above Kansas City.
Kreilach gave RSL the lead in the 13th minute off Aaron Herrera’s 10th assist from his right back position.
After using his chest to control a pass, Herrera curled in an early cross toward the near post, where Andrew Brody flubbed his header attempt. But Kreilach was there at the opposite post to guide the skipping service past goalkeeper William Yarbrough.
RSL doubled the lead 12 minutes after halftime when Kreilach took down a loose ball and quickly spotted Rubin in the penalty area with a throughball.
Rubin angled his run to beat defender Lalas Abubakar, then drove a low finish from close range past Yarbrough.
“Extremely excited about the response for the group,” said RSL interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “Playing for Colorado for many years, coaching them, there’s obviously something deep down inside. But the moment it becomes about me then my behavior towards our group here is compromised. I was super conscious to make sure that this wasn’t about playing my old club and any of that stuff. It was all about creating an environment with the coaching staff that we have that we felt was conducive to getting a result.”
Barrios and Namli entered moments after the goal, and the Rapids immediately looked more threatening.
But once Namli broke through, RSL did better to limit the chances for an equalizer and looked the more likely to score late.
Albert Rusnak struck the goalframe with a shot, and Anderson Julio had an effort cleared off the goal line by Lucas Esteves before he finally got his goal six minutes into second-half stoppage time.
“Everything starts with defense,” said RSL defender Aaron Herrera. “Whenever we’ve been solid defensively we have given our guys more freedom to go forward. There was a little momentum shift in the game. We got a little too comfortable with the two-goal lead but that happens in soccer. I think we were too focused on trying to put the ball in behind and this made our guys up front gassed. Bringing in Anderson [Julio] gave us that option in behind the defense again. Playing those balls in behind the defense really benefited us and kept us locked in.”
RSL next plays at Chicago October 23rd at 6:00 p.m.