My pregame prediction for this one was that we would see a very exciting affair with two teams both trying to beat each other at the same game -- that is, possession, passing and plenty of well worked chances through all sides of the offense. I was right on one of the points (I personally thought it was a very exciting game compared to some of the other snoozefests that 'Rivalry Week' presented us with) but I was wrong on the other one.
Oscar Pareja surprised me by doing something that he had never done before: swapping the tactics to grind out a result. When I talk about Pareja evolving tactically, this is the sort of thing I mean. Never before in Pareja's tenure had we seen the magical art of bunker ball imposed, but on Saturday it was the order of the day.
The first big event in the match was Matt Pickens' forearm being snapped during a collision on a set piece, an injury that will unfortunately keep him out of commission for quite some time. Former third and current second choice keeper Clint Irwin stepped into the role and immediately made himself look like a solid choice, throwing down a couple of big saves and some solid goal kicks.
Despite who was in net though, the aim from the start was fairly clear. The Rapids ceded most of the possession to the Salt Lakers and tried a good ol' fashioned game of Clog N Hoof. It didn't work all that badly either, with Deshorn Brown proving to once again be an absolute handful whenever the weakened Salt Lake defense was forced to deal with him. He couldn't parlay some of his early chances into goals despite plenty of chances, but there was a feeling that all we would need to do is sit and wait.
A defensive mistake ended up ending that wait. In the 36th minute, some awful work by the RSL center backs gave Deshorn a free trek towards the goal, and he provided a tidy finish to get his first as an MLS player. Even after the goal though, they continued on continuing on with the defense trying to stifle attacks and hoofing it forward to where Brown, Atiba Harris and Tony Cascio were waiting.
Had they gotten a second goal -- and the chances were surely there for them to -- they may have come out of Utah with their first ever victory at Rio Tinto. Unfortunately, the bad finishing bug bit once again and nothing was going in even as the Rapids settled the game down in the second half. That settling apparently wasn't enough, though, as RSL managed to break the Rapids lead through an Alvaro Saborio goal in the 80th minute. Past that, both teams slogged to the end of the game.
Hopefully they can continue their newfound points streak against LA next weekend.