Rapids cap home schedule with 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake

An early goal from Joshua Gatt gave the Colorado Rapids a gritty 1-0 win over rivals Real Salt Lake on Sunday evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard returned to the starting lineup after international duty, replacing Zac MacMath for the only change from last weekend’s 1-1 draw against FC Dallas. Howard would make a season-equaling seven saves on the night.

Just three minutes into the game, forward Alan Gordon’s cheeky flick found Gatt all alone at the top of the box, and the speedy winger slotted home the game’s lone goal. This marked Gatt’s second on the season – both scored against the Rapids’ biggest rival.

From there, Real Salt Lake began to find their way in to the game. The first of their seven attempts on goal coming in the sixth minute as Kyle Beckerman laid the ball off to Luke Mulholland. With a step forward, the midfielder powered a low shot from outside the box, but Howard was ready for the diving save.

The equalizer nearly came again in the 23rd minute when Luis Silva found Joao Plata in behind goal. The Ecuadorian attacker slipped his shot past Howard but as the ball rolled towards goal, Marlon Hairston made a last ditch effort to block Plata’s second attempt on the line.

“The whole team defensively was very good,” interim head coach Steve Cooke said after the match. “I would pick out the back six players, not including Tim Howard, they did a solid job. That being said, Tim Howard pulled off three or four saves that were absolutely top level. He along with others have been in the media this week. Lots of people have questions that have not been on the field with him, it’s been difficult for them all I am sure. I know Tim Howard was absolutely devastated and they care deeply about their international team. A real champion stands up, comes out the next day and become the leader for the team. Tim Howard was not going to let Salt Lake score tonight, and was going to get us out of here with three points.”

Real Salt Lake would keep the pressure on for most of the match, again coming close in the 62nd minute. Albert Rusnak’s hard shot forced yet another strong save by Howard.

The Rapids were forced to make a pair of changes mid-way through the second half through injury. Defender Mike da Fonte and midfielder Dillon Serna checked in to the match in place of Dominique Badji and Alan Gordon, respectively.

With a quarter of an hour left on the clock, the lead was nearly doubled by Serna off a counterattack. The Homegrown player got the ball on the wing, but his ball across the face of goal barely missed a wide-open Gatt at the far post.

Real Salt Lake kept pressing late in the match, but the Rapids’ defense was up to the task and held on for the clean sheet in the final home match of the 2017 campaign.

“It’s been a tough season and anyone that bought a ticket tonight and put their butt in these seats, they’re down for us because it’s been hard,” Howard said after the match. “We closed a chapter with a good win, a tough win against our biggest rivals.”

The Colorado Rapids will look to cap off the season on a good note when they travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders FC at 2:00 p.m. MT on Sunday, Oct.22.