SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Nick Rimando’s final regular season home game was a memorable one.
Jefferson Savarino scored the game-winning goal in the 75th minute, as RSL clinched a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over Houston at Rio Tinto Stadium Sunday night.
RSL is guaranteed no lower than the 5th seed in the Western Conference, and has a chance to move into a top-four seed next weekend, which would give them a first round home playoff game.
“Feels good, feels good,” head coach Freddy Juarez said about securing a spot in the postseason. “I wish it had been done on Wednesday, but it’s important that it’s out of the way. The pressure of a must-win and now is gone, and now we can really put a focus on how far up the standings do we want to get.”
As for Rimando, the all-time MLS leader in victories, saves, shutouts, games played, and almost every other goalkeeping statistic, the victory was extra special to be able to clinch a playoff berth in what could be his final game at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“Awesome day, awesome night,” said Rimando, who is retiring after 20 MLS seasons. “Great experience to share with my family, friends and all the fans here. So happy that we got the result that we needed. That makes it more special for sure, and now lets celebrate a little bit and look forward to the next game.”
RSL rode the emotion of the game into a very early lead. Corey Baird opened the scoring just 33 seconds into the game on a breakaway goal to give RSL an early 1-0 lead.
“I don’t think anyone’s expecting to score a goal that early,: Baird said. “Good to start on a strong foot, I think we were looking to put some pressure on them. Forced a turnover in the midfield and when you win the ball there, there’s a lot of space.”
The Dynamo tied the game in the 32nd minute when Tomas Martinez found the back of the net. Houston then had a potential go-ahead goal by Thomas McNamara called off after video review, when it was determined that a Houston player was offside.
Savarino then rocketed home his 8th goal of the season in the 75th, as RSL wrapped up its second straight playoff berth.
If RSL beats Vancouver in its final regular season game next Sunday, and the L.A. Galaxy lose or draw against Houston, then RSL will host a playoff game.
“Tonight it was another scenario where if we win we know we’re in the playoffs, so it feels great,” Rimando said. “All the boys worked hard all year and obviously some results have been going our way. Once you’re in, you’re in. It doesn’t matter what kind of results that you have. Obviously, we would want to be at home for the first one. You saw what we did last year, and everybody in this locker room is excited.”