Well, Freddy Adu used his touches well, but Nicolas Hernandez and Jeff Cunningham usually didn't, and Atiba Harris treated the ball as he would a bucket of snakes: avoid it if at all possible.
Colorado and Real Salt Lake, which usually trade barbs and insults and rough tackles and cautions in their Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry, instead traded own goals in the first 15 minutes and mostly focused on soccer the rest of the way. In its second game under head coach Jason Kreis, RSL tied for the second time, 1-1, Thursday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Adu, stationed wide on the left and well supported by left back Willis Forko and Carey Talley, ran at defenders repeatedly, drilled a low shot that caromed into the net off defender Pablo Mastroeni, and stung the left glove of Bouna Coundoul with a rising blast. RSL clicked offensively, at least through the middle third with Cunningham playing the occasional good ball, but his dribbles ran aground and Harris just didn't connect with Cunningham or anybody else.
Defensively, RSL ceded possession on the flanks, but plugged up the middle, with Eddie Pope and Daniel Torres and midfielder Talley clamping down on Jovan Kirovski, Roberto Brown and Hernandez. Herculez Gomez drove a cross that keeper Nick Rimando tipped and defender Jack Stewart banged into his own net, and also broke through twice to put the ball in the net himself, but both times he was adjudged offside. On two other occasions, Gomez's shots from sharp angles were well saved by Rimando, who got the start in goal over U.S. under-20 Chris Seitz.
RSL midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy did a fair share of defensive work, picking up three fouls in the process, but betrayed his team when on the ball, passing up shots to hit ill-advised passes and shooting well wide on a shot from distance. Chris Klein's passes and shots lacked sting, yet still he covered plenty of ground on both flanks.
RSL kept Coundoul busy while pushing Colorado back into its own half for extended periods, and seldom was caught upfield when the ball turned over. Daniel Torres, especially, won battles with Brown in the box, and Hernandez dropped back into midfield to escape the tenacious marking of him and Pope. Hernandez did play one clever through ball that Rimando collected, and mustered his first shot on goal of the season, but seldom did he and Brown work in tandem. Kirovski never got into the flow.
RSL still has problems to solve, but determination and spirit and a sense of team shape has been instilled by Kreis. Colorado, with a loss and tie in its last two home games, next heads to New York under a cloud of many questions.
May 10 in Commerce City, Colo.
Colorado 1 Real Salt Lake 1. Goals: Own Goal 4; Own Goal 15.
Colorado - Coundoul, Gargan, Mastroeni, Petke, Vanney, Cooke (Peterson, 90), Beckerman, Kirovski (Cancela, 57), Gomez, Brown, Hernandez.
Real Salt Lake - Rimando, Stewart (Kipre, 61), Pope, Torres, Forko, Talley, Ballouchy, Klein, Adu, Cunningham, Harris (Brown, 67).
Referee: Jair Marrufo.