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Real Salt Lake reclaims Rocky Mountain Cup with 3-1 win over Colorado

Real Salt Lake forward Rubio Rubin (14) celebrates his goal against the Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Real won 3-0.

Real Salt Lake forward Rubio Rubin (14) celebrates his goal against the Colorado Rapids at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Real won 3-0. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

SANDY — Real Salt Lake interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni called Anderson Julio a closer — the super sub who comes in and provides the offense a late spark.

On Saturday, Julio lived up to that billing.

In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Julio raced by Colorado's backline and snuck the ball around William Yarbrough to close the door on RSL's 3-1 win over the Rapids.

"He comes in and loves his role," Mastroeni said to the RSL broadcast team immediately following the win. "Guys are a little bit tired in the back; he really exploits that with his speed. And not only speed, he's showing a lot of great quality."

He wasn't the only one showing that quality on Saturday as RSL reclaimed the Rocky Mountain Cup and won a club-record seventh-straight match at Rio Tinto Stadium, especially for the man who set up Julio's late goal: Damir Kreilach.

The Croatian midfielder had a role in all three RSL goals, scoring the first and assisting on the next two to lead RSL to victory.

In the 13th minute, Aaron Herrera sent a long cross into the box. The ball bounced at the edge of the six-yard box, leading to a close-range header from Kreilach to give RSL a 1-0 lead. It was Kreilach's team-leading 14th goal of the season.

Kreliach was the benefactor of a perfectly placed pass on his goal, and he paid that type of play forward in the second half.

In the 56th minute, Kreilach freed up Rubio Rubin with a nifty through ball into the box. Rubin was able to quickly get to it and got the first touch past Yarbrough to give RSL a 2-0 lead.

"I think we can play forward more and be more aggressive once we get into some half spaces and receive the ball between the lines," Mastroeni said. "I think we can drive defenses and be a little bit more proactive. Sometimes I think we're just comfortable knocking the ball around and keeping possession, which is important to catch your breath, but can we change that gear? And when we did that a few times today, I thought we were really, really dangerous."

Kreilach had such a knack for being a part of goals on Saturday that he even played a role in Colorado's lone tally of the evening. In the 73rd minute, Younes Namli struck a ball out of the air toward goal that ricocheted off Kreilach's shoulder and past RSL keeper David Ochoa.

Ochoa had remained in the game after landing on his head after being undercut in the 64th minute. He was looked at by the RSL medical staff and he was cleared to continue.

The goal, though, put some pressure on RSL, and Mastroeni opted for some fresh legs. Most notably: Julio, who has already saved some games due to some late heroics.

It was more of the same Saturday.

Early in stoppage time, Julio dribbled around Yarbrough in the box, but his kick toward goal was saved on the line by the feet of Colorado's Auston Trusty.

But Julio wasn't done yet.

Kreilach got up high and headed a goal kick forward past the Colorado backline, setting up a one-on-one situation with Julio and Yarbrough. Julio won, sending the ball through the legs of the Colorado keeper to put the game on ice.

With the win, RSL (12-6-11) remained in fifth place in the Western Conference standings.

"We did exactly what we wanted," Kreilach said. "We had control, we scored the goal and then in the second half, we did better. I mean they scored a lucky goal but at the end of the day, I mean we deserved three points tonight."

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