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 Utah Royals FC

RSL Thrill with Late Comeback in 5-3 Instant Classic Over Rival Colorado

May 18, 2024 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)
Utah Royals FC News Release


SANDY, Utah (Sat.) - Real Salt Lake (8-2-4, 28 pts, 1st West MLS) were victorious in the second leg of the 2024 Rocky Mountain Cup, scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes over the visiting Colorado Rapids. Hailed as an instant classic that saw two RSL comebacks and eight total goals scored in the highest-scoring Claret-and-Cobalt game since Sept. 2018, RSL extended its lead atop the MLS Western Conference while extending its active unbeaten run to 10 games dating back to March 9.

Watch / Listen to RSL Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni, FW Andrés Gómez and ST Chicho Arango Commentary following 5-3 home victory over Colorado Rapids on Sat.,, May 18, 2024

Disaster struck early for RSL, falling behind to the Rocky Mountain Cup rivals in the fifth minute of play. Passing calmly along the back line, RSL attempted an entry pass into the midfield when Cole Bassett came out of nowhere to intercept it. With Zac MacMath caught off guard and away from his line, Bassett took one touch and launched at the open net from distance, narrowly sneaking it beyond the outstretched glove of MacMath and into the net. The goal is the second-earliest conceded by RSL this season.

Real Salt Lake's first chance of the affair would come in the 12th minute, displaying the counter attacking capabilities of the Claret-and-Cobalt. Winning the ball deep on the left side of Real's defensive third, Alex Katranis played a long switch to Matt Crooks as he darted upfield. Content to take the real estate available to him, Crooks drove to the edge of the box before playing it for Andrés Gómez as he darted into the box. Cleverly flicking it forward for himself and beyond his marker, Gómez's cross-body shot was on target before a diving Zack Steffen swallowed it up.

Starting play with a midfield throw-in around the halfway line, Colorado seemingly created another goal out of nowhere to take a two-goal advantage in the 19th minute. Rafael Navarro received the throw and darted towards the RSL box. Attempting a through-ball for his teammate, it was denied by the RSL defense but deflected and fell directly back to his feet in the center of the box, juking once and chipping over MacMath to claim the two-goal lead.

It would not take long for Real to regain some momentum in front of a standing-room only crowd, striking back to cut the lead in half just three minutes later. Matt Crooks controlled it on the right wing, playing centrally for Braian Ojeda on the edge of the box. Cleverly popping it over his marker to create the space, Ojeda ripped a powerful longshot on net, kept out but not controlled by Steffen as Chicho Arango flew in to clean up the chance with a point-blank blast off the crossbar and into the net.

On the hunt for an equalizer with the 20,728 at America First Field sensing the shift in momentum, RSL nearly got it in the 29th. With RSL controlling on the left wing, Gómez found Diego Luna on the corner of the box, showing his technique to hold up play with five blue jerseys surrounding him. Flipping his hips, Luna spotted Arango at the penalty spot and found him with a perfectly weighted pass for the one-time shot, just narrowly flying wide of the post.

Clearly now in control of the match, RSL pressed again in the 40th and got the equalizer its play deserved. Standing alongside the flag with his arm raised for the corner kick, Luna took his run-up and whipped a long, curling ball over the crowded box, Gómez waiting at the back post. With no choice other than to attempt the one-time volley, Gómez caught it pure on his left foot and sent a world-class rocket over a helpless Steffen and into the back of the net. The teams would head into the locker rooms knotted up at two a piece, RSL enjoying more than 59% of possession and a healthy advantage in passing accuracy while each team had seven shots.

Coming out for a fresh 45, Colorado struck first. Calvin Harris streaked down the left wing in the 56th minute with three teammates filtering into the box for service, playing a calm ball to the feet of Djordje Mihailovic for the point-blank shot. Perfectly positioned, MacMath denied it back into play before Omir Fernández got off another shot just feet from the goal, again saved by a miraculous dive from MacMath. The final save however, would fall back into play near the feet of Mihailovic again, this time tapping in the chance for a 3-2 visiting lead.

RSL again was the clear aggressor after going down, crafting three consecutive chances in the 61st, 63rd and 64th. First, Luna received it in the midfield and darted forward, taking on multiple defenders before laying off to Gómez on the wing. Seeing that Luna continued his run, he played it right back as Luna juked and got a shot off from the top of a crowded box, narrowly going wide of the far post. The second, coming in the 63rd, saw Real possessing it deep in the Colorado zone when Arango floated a cross to the head of Anderson Julio in the center of the box, elevating over his defender to connect with the header but sending it just wide.

Finally, RSL created another fantastic chance in the 64th. As Colorado played along their back line, Julio flew forward to harass Rapids defenders, forcing one to leave it short when attempting to play backwards for Steffen. With only the 'keeper to beat in a breakaway scenario, Julio opted for a low, cross-body attempt with his right foot, putting it inches beyond the post and out of play.

Creating chance after chance, Real Salt Lake finally broke through to equalize in the 85th. Bryan Oviedo stood at the corner flag with both arms raised, whipping a high, curling ball to the center of the box that Colorado attempted to clear but could only manage to send it out to Emeka Eneli on the edge of the box. Controlling it with a beautiful touch, Eneli ripped a high shot on net that connected with the crossbar and bounced high in the air. With two taller defenders near him, Arango rose up above both to get his head on the ball and put it in the back of the net for the equalizer.

Smelling blood in the water as the RSL faithful rose to their feet, RSL immediately pushed for another and found it in the 88th, taking a commanding 4-3 lead after once trailing 2-0. With RSL comfortably possessing the ball deep in Colorado territory, Eneli passed to Oviedo out wide for a cross into the box. Flying through untouched, it settled to the feet of Gómez on the other side, quickly playing a one-two with Arango to find himself one-on-one with the 'keeper in the box. Lunging forward as Steffen charged him, Gómez poked it through for the goal as his teammates mobbed him and the crowd erupted in celebration.

As extra time ticked on and Colorado became ever more desperate to equalize, it would be Real Salt Lake that added a cherry on top of their thrilling comeback, scoring another in the fifth minute of stoppage time. With the Rapids fully committed forward, Maikel Chang and Nelson Palacio combined to harass the ball in the midfield, winning it and quickly playing forward to Julio with acres of green grass in front of him. Cutting across goal and past the only defender in the area, Julio opted for placement over power, curling it beautifully around Steffen and perfectly into the corner netting with his preferred right foot.

The whistle would sound shortly after Julio's goal, cementing a win for RSL in its highest-scoring MLS match since Sept. 2018, a thunderous comeback to even this year's Rocky Mountain Cup leg two at one match a-piece, the fan-created series to be decided July 20 in suburban Denver.

Fans can catch RSL next Saturday when it travels to the Lone Star State for a matchup with FC Dallas on May 25, kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MT. For tickets, schedules, info, news and more around the Western Conference's top team, visit rsl.com/tickets

RSL 5 : 3 COL

GOAL-SCORING SUMMARY:

COL - 5' Cole Bassett (Unassisted): Passing it calmly along the back line, Real attempted an entry pass into the midfield when Cole Bassett came out of nowhere to intercept it. With Zac MacMath caught off guard and away from his line, Bassett took one touch and launched at the open net from distance, narrowly sneaking it beyond the outstretched glove of MacMath and into the net. The goal is the earliest conceded by RSL in any competition this season.

COL - 19' Rafael Navarro (Unassisted): Rafael Navarro received the throw and darted towards the RSL box. Attempting a through-ball for his teammate, it was denied by the Real defense but deflected and fell directly back to his feet in the center of the box, juking once and chipping over MacMath to claim the two-goal lead.

RSL - 23' Chicho Arango (Unassisted): Matt Crooks controlling it on the right wing, he played centrally for Braian Ojeda on the edge of the box. Cleverly popping it over his marker to create the space, Ojeda ripped a powerful longshot on net, kept out but not controlled by Steffen as Chicho Arango flew in to clean up the chance with a point-blank blast off the crossbar and into the net

RSL - 40' Andrés Gómez (Diego Luna): Standing alongside the flag with his arm raised for the corner kick, Luna took his run-up and whipped a long, curling ball over the crowded box for Gómez waiting at the back post. With no choice other than to attempt the one-time volley, Gómez caught it pure on his left foot and sent a world-class rocket over a helpless Steffan and into the back of the net.

COL - 56' Djordje Mihailovic (Unassisted): Calvin Harris streaking down the left wing in the 56th minute with three teammates filtering into the box for service, he played a calm ball to the feet of Djordje Mihailovic for the point-blank shot. Perfectly positioned, MacMath denied it back into play before Omir Fernández got off another shot just feet from the goal, again saved by a miraculous dive from MacMath. The final save however, would fall back into play near the feet of Mihailovic again, this time able to tap in the chance and take a lead for his side.

RSL - 85' Chicho Arango (Unassisted): Standing alongside the flag with his arm raised for the corner kick, Luna took his run-up and whipped a long, curling ball over the crowded box forGómez waiting at the back post. With no choice other than to attempt the one-time volley, Gómez caught it pure on his left foot and sent a world-class rocket over a helpless Steffan and into the back of the net.

RSL - 88' Andrés Gómez (Chicho Arango): With RSL comfortably possessing the ball deep in Colorado territory, Eneli passed to Oviedo out wide for a cross into the box. Flying through untouched, it settled to the feet of Gómez on the other side, quickly playing a one-two with Arango to find himself one-on-one with the 'keeper in the box. Lunging forward as Steffen charged him, Gómez poked it through for the goal as his teammates mobbed him and the crowd erupted in celebration.

RSL - 90+6' Anderson Julio (Nelson Palacio): With the Rapids fully committed forward, Maikel Chang and Nelson Palacio combined to harass the ball in the midfield, winning it and quickly playing forward to Julio with acres of green grass in front of him. Cutting across goal and past the only defender in the area, Julio opted for placement over power, curling it beautifully around a helpless Steffen and perfectly into the corner netting with his right foot.

RSL v COL NOTES:

Tonight's victory extends the active RSL unbeaten run to 10 matches, dating back to a March 9 home loss against Colorado; the streak is the third -longest in Club history, also marking the first time in RSL's 20 years that the team has registered back-to-back seasons with unbeaten runs of nine or more.

MF Emeka Eneli plays the full 90 minutes for the 14th consecutive game in MLS action, maintaining his status as the lone RSL player to play every moment of MLS play this season. Eneli is one of five MLS outfielders to have played the full 1,260 minutes this season. Three RSL players - Eneli, Chicho Arango and Andrew Brody - have appeared in every match of 2024.

Diego Luna followed up his goal and assist on Wednesday against Seattle with another assist in the 40th minute to Andrés Gómez, increasing his tally to seven assists and two goals on the year. Luna's seven assists is tied for seventh-most in Major League Soccer.

Highest scoring RSL match since Sept. 2018, when RSL scored six in back-to-back matches against LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids.

Captain Chicho Arango's brace and assist represented the Colombian star's 12th/13th goals and eighth assist this season. Arango has either scored or assisted on 21 of 27 RSL goals this campaign, now two goals clear atop the MLS Golden Boot race and an early contender for the Most Valuable Player award.

Nelson Palacio earns his first assist of the season on a stoppage-time pass for Anderson Julio's insurance score.

Emeka Eneli puts on a shockingly impressive passing display in midfield, completing 66 passes at a 98.5% success rate, the highest completion rate of any player on the pitch to attempt at least 10 passes.

FW Andrés Gómez nets his sixth and seventh goals of the year, as well as his fourth game-winner of 2024; Gómez' seven goals placing him tied for 9th-most in MLS, representing an 11th goal contribution (four assists this campaign).

LINEUPS:

Real Salt Lake (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath; Andrew Brody (Philip Quinton, 90+2'); Alex Katranis (Bryan Oviedo, 75'); Justen Glad; Brayan Vera; Emeka Eneli, Braian Ojeda (Nelson Palacio, 60'); Andrés Gómez; Diego Luna (Maikel Chang, 90+2'); Matt Crooks (Anderson Julio, 60'); Chicho Arango ©

Subs not used: Fidel Barajas, Bertin Jacquesson, Tommy Silva, Gavin Beavers

Colorado Rapids (4-2-3-1): Zack Steffen; Keegan Rosenberry ©, Sam Vines, Andreas Maxsø; Moïse Bombito; Djordje Mihailovic ( Lalas Abubakar, 83'), Oliver Larraz (Jasper Löffelsend, 71') ; Cole Bassett; Rafael Navarro (Darren Yapi, 71'); Omir Fernández (Connor Ronan, 66'); Calvin Harris (Kévin Cabral, 66')

Subs not used: Adam Beaudry, Jonathan Lewis, Sebastian Anderson, Jackson Travis

Stats Summary: RSL / COL

Shots: 20 / 15

Shots on Goal: 10 / 10

Saves: 7 / 5

Corner Kicks: 6 / 2

Fouls: 17 / 14

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY:

RSL: Matt Crooks (Yellow Card, 51'), Brayan Vera (Yellow Card, 65'), Emeka Eneli (Yellow Card, 79'), Andrés Gómez (Yellow Card, 90'), 17 Total Fouls

COL: Zack Steffen (Yellow Card, 32'), Darren Yapi (Yellow Card, 90+9'),14 Total Fouls

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