When Real Salt Lake went into the half down a goal in Colorado on Saturday night, it didn’t bode well for them. And it didn’t look good late, either.
But with a fourth straight Rocky Mountain Cup and a shot at a first-ever Supporters’ Shield on the line, striker Alvaro Saborío willed Real Salt Lake back into the match with perhaps the team’s most unusual and important goal of the season.
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Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens had settled in on a back pass in the 91st minute before Saborío started to inch closer near the edge of the penalty box. Suddenly he was in a full sprint, and stunningly deflected Pickens’ clear back off the crossbar before he buried the rebound to cut Colorado’s lead to 2-1.
“That’s something that Sabo’s been sniffing out all year long,” midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “He’s got a nose for the goal, and he never gives up on the play.”
The goal, combined with the equalizer from the penalty spot a couple of minutes later after a Brian Mullan foul on Jamison Olave on an RSL free kick, was just enough for RSL to salvage a 2-2 draw and a fourth straight Rocky Mountain Cup on away goal differential.
“I tell you what - it was nuts, absolutely nuts,” Beckerman said. “In 2008, when we scored at the very end (at Colorado) to get into the playoffs for the first time, that was pretty wild, but this blew it out of the water.”
Saborío’s penalty kick was the fourth stoppage time equalizer on the season for the defending champs. Two of those belong to the Costa Rican striker, and one belongs to Nat Borchers, who scored late to help RSL manage a 1-1 draw against Colorado on Sept. 25 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
But even Beckerman admitted that as the game reached stoppage time, the two-goal lead looked insurmountable.
“I’m thinking (at that point) - it’s not the end of the world, we haven’t lost for a long time so maybe we needed to have a loss to get a little wake up and get us sharp again, but I’ll take a tie and to play bad any day of the week instead of that,” Beckerman said.
The equalizer means that Real Salt Lake are still unbeaten in their last 14 matches, and they’re tied with LA Galaxy atop the league. They need an LA loss to FC Dallas on Sunday to capture the Supporters’ Shield.
“It’s pretty cool that we have a chance,” Beckerman said. “I’d put my money on probably LA winning – everything’s right there, all they have to do is win right there at home. It’s a good thing, but it’s really out of our hands.”