SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – After four demoralizing losses in a row, Real Salt Lake looked like the team we all saw a month ago with a dominating 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids to win the annual Rocky Mountain Cup.
This is the third straight year and sixth time in the last seven years that RSL has won the Rocky Mountain Cup over its rivals to the east.
“It’s a tough task at time convincing the players that they are great,” said RSL head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “And convincing guys that what has got us to this point in the belief in themselves and belief in what we’re trying to achieve.”
Chicho Arango scored his third league in six league appearances for his new club, while Brian Vera added his first goal of the season from a direct free kick as Real Salt Lake (11-9-7, 40 points) snapped a four-game losing skid across all competitions. RSL had dropped three straight MLS matches.
Zac MacMath made three saves to keep a seventh clean sheet of the season for RSL, which began the day in sixth place in the Western Conference despite their recent small slump.
This marks Real Salt Lake’s first victory since a 3-0 win over Club Leon in the U.S. Open Cup on August 4th. RSL won its first MLS game since a 3-0 victory over Seattle on July 22.
They may improve their position depending on results elsewhere later Saturday, after a dominant display in which they outshot Colorado 17-6 overall and 5-3 in efforts on target.
Marki Ilic made three stops for the Rapids, who sank to a third consecutive defeat and haven’t scored in their last four games.
Last-place Colorado (3-13-10, 19 points) has been shut out in nine of its last 10 in the league and has scored a league-worst 17 goals en route to its position 15 points beneath the Western Conference playoff line with eight matches left to play.
“The focus today in the pregame was about courage, and they responded in a big way,” Mastroeni said. “It was an important performance for us tonight, an important result, and one that we want to continue to build upon.”
Both RSL goals came from set pieces, and Ilic probably should’ve done better on the first, Vera’s left-footed blast that found the top corner in the 19th minute.
Jefferson Savarino also stood over the dead ball about 25 yards from the goal before clearing out for Vera to unleash his strike.
Ilic appeared to misjudge it, moving initially to his left before diving back to his right. He got a palm to Vera’s effort, but it lacked the strength to push it wide of goal.
After leading LAFC with 16 goals last season, Arango has continued his pace of about a goal every two appearances since returning to MLS and Salt Lake during the summer transfer window.
This latest one came on a corner kick header, with Arango outmuscling defender Danny Wilson to reach Maikel Chang’s inswinging service and send a near post header past Ilic from close range.
Real Salt Lake is now off until September 16th when they play at San Jose.