Real Salt Lake topped the Colorado Rapids, 1-0, on Wednesday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to advance to the US Open Cup Quarterfinals for the first time since 2015.
Jefferson Savarino dribbled uncontested from midfield after a sloppy Rapids turnover for the game’s only goal at the half hour mark. This was Savarino’s first Open Cup appearance for RSL in 2023.
Wednesday was the second meeting between the two clubs in four days. Last Saturday, in league play, RSL beat the Rapids 3-2. On Wednesday night, both teams fielded a mixture of last weekend’s starters and reserves for tonight’s Open Cup match. It was the first meeting between the two rivals in the US Open Cup proper since their first one back in 2006 (a game Colorado won 1-0 on a Jacob Peterson goal assisted by Clint Mathis)
— Real Salt Lake (@realsaltlake) May 25, 2023
“After our tough start to the campaign we wanted to prioritize the Open Cup,” said RSL head coach, Pablo Mastroeni. “We found that giving some of the guys who weren’t getting a lot of minutes has inspired them to become better teammates and better players. It feels so good to have so many people contribute.”
With the win, RSL will host LA Galaxy the week of June 6 or 7.
“We drew a tough LA Galaxy team that I’m sure is going to bring a fantastic group to AFF. It will be a great challenge for us,” Mastroeni said.
The Rapids nearly gave the game away in the third minute when a poorly weighted back pass from Moise Bombito forced Marko Ilić to scramble to clear the ball away with his feet from inside the six-yard box, just beating Carlos Gomez to the ball.
The Rapids best chance of the first half came in the 23rd minute off a prolonged possession when Michael Barrios found Sam Nicholson streaking down the middle of the park. Nicholson smashed the ball from outside of the penalty area. RSL’s 18-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Beavers got just enough on the shot to push the ball off the crossbar.
Beavers finished with four saves to earn his first clean sheet in his four professional appearances. He started in all three of RSL’s previous 2023 Open Cup matches.
“The Open Cup is a big opportunity for young players,” Mastroeni said. “Starting off with Las Vegas gave him a lot of confidence and belief in himself. He’s a young man with a very high ceiling. Goalkeeping is such a nuanced position with positioning, seeing the plays. You can see these plays at a lower level and your positioning isn’t going to kill you. At this level, with the players he is up against, everything has to be spot on. Tonight, he had a fantastic performance.”
RSL made the Rapids pay for more sloppy play at the half-hour mark when Anderson Julio forced a Rapids turnover at midfield. Savarino collected the ball and sauntered unchallenged down the field, slotting the ball past Ilić, who was slow to come off his line. It was his first career US Open Cup goal.
“The first goal came from a great defensive effort, Mastroeni said. “Ando blocked it in the midfield, created the turnover, and Sava did the rest. We need Sava performing at the top level, with intensity, with the quality that he displayed tonight. His quality speaks for itself.”
Moments before the halftime Barrios nearly ceased a half-opportunity, just missing from a tight angle.
Five minutes into the second half RSL nearly doubled the lead. Maikel Chang’s header back to the far post off a Savarino cross glanced off the crossbar and back into play.
After a flurry of substitutions by both teams in the final 20 minutes the Rapids threw everything forward. With eight minutes to play in regulation Jonathan Lewis earned a free kick just outside the penalty area. The Rapids could not make anything of the opportunity, or any of the half-chances that followed.
“At the moment, it feels good to be where we are, but we haven’t won anything yet,” Mastroeni said. “The onus is on us to play together, work hard, and continue to get results.”