Fabian Espindola joined Robbie Findley as RSL's all-time leading goalscorer with his controversial strike in the Rocky Mountain Cup.SANDY, Utah -- It was supposed to be a close match between two of the best teams in the Western Conference, but Real Salt Lake put the Colorado Rapids on their heels from the first minute and never let up on its way to a comfortable 2-0 win in front of 16,870 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Alvaro Saborio put the home team on the board after 20 minutes, and Fabian Espindola tacked on an insurance goal in the 57th. Espindola's goal put him in a tie with former strike partner Robbie Findley for the top spot on RSL's all-time leading scorer list with 29.
Espindola's goal was not without controversy, though. Replays showed that Espindola brought the ball down with his left elbow before firing past Matt Pickens. For fans of the rivalry, controversy - controversial goals especially - are nothing new.
"It was so fast," remarked Espindola. "All of a sudden the ball was there. It wasn't intentional."
But in the end, this is one controversy that was water under the bridge. With Colorado unable to get anything past Nick Rimando, Espindola's goal was largely academic as Saborio's goal stands as the game winner. For that, a lot of credit belongs to Salt Lake's urgency and effort throughout the game.
RSL's last performance, a 1-0 win over Montreal, was not a good one, and coach Jason Kreis challenged his team to get back in form for this one. They clearly got the message.
"Tonight we just came out with the right energy, the right mentality," said defender Tony Beltran, who assisted on both goals. "That wasn't there [in our last game]. I think we did a better job focusing and coming out and establishing possession early."
Part of the credit for Real's improvement in the midfield belongs with Sebastian Velasquez. The young midfielder got the start after not even being in the 18 in the last two matches and put in an inspiring performance. His play helped keep Salt Lake on the ball - exactly where it wants to be.
"He was fantastic, really fantastic," said Kreis. "He was out of the 18 because I wanted to give the guys coming back [from injury] an opportunity. For him to come straight from not being in the 18 to the starting lineup, and put the performance he did out there tonight, speaks a lot about Sebastian Velasquez."
"When I do get the start, I'm taking that into my heart," said Velasquez. "I'm like 'how many kids wouldn't want the same opportunity, so go out there and fight.'"
RSL will do its next bit of fighting in a highly-anticipated matchup next Saturday as it visits Sporting Kansas City in a battle of the top of the West vs. the top of the East. Kreis laughed off a reporter's question about whether he would characterize the upcoming match as a preview of MLS Cup.
"You can characterize it however you want," Kreis said. "But I'm not going to."
Follow JEREMY HORTON on