On the heels of a huge come-from-behind win over league-leading D.C. United last Saturday, Real Salt Lake hoped to use its fourth-round U.S. Open Cup game against Colorado to build momentum before this weekend's MLS All-Star break.
After playing reasonably well during the first half, Real failed to sustain that effort after halftime. Former RSL midfielder Clint Mathis assisted on the game-winning goal in the 61st minute and Colorado hung on for a 1-0 win Wednesday night, knocking Salt Lake out of the U.S. Open Cup.
"Before the game (the state of the team) was OK," said coach John Ellinger. "I don't know what it is now. Obviously, we were frustrated again. The mood with everybody felt we were going to make a go at this competition. I just didn't feel it happened."
The killer blow came in the 61st minute, thanks to solid work by Mathis. After receiving the ball down the right side, he advanced it toward the endline, drawing RSL defenders Willis Forko and Nik Besagno toward him. From there, Mathis perfectly back-heeled the ball into the path of a wide-open Jacob Peterson, who banged the ball into the net.
Mathis made his second appearance in Salt Lake City since being traded from the team last fall.
"It's funny, the guys are always giving me stick here and there" said Mathis, who was subbed out in the 84th minute, "but it's part of the game and it's no worries."
RSL created a handful of chances over the final five minutes, including a first-time effort by sub Joey Worthen that was tipped wide, but it wasn't enough.
Real Salt Lake outshot Colorado 17-8, including a 10-3 advantage in the first half. However, Ellinger didn't feel his squad played that well or that it created enough quality scoring chances.
"In the first half, I thought we got behind them," he said. "But again, where did it go from there? We got in behind them and then did we cross it and get somebody on the end of the cross? Did we lay the ball off for a good, quality chance? I don't think we did that."
Winger Chris Klein played fairly well during the opening 45 minutes to help Salt Lake get behind the defense.
"Very good first half. Definitely thought we had the better of the chances," said Klein. "For whatever reason, we didn't have the same intensity in the second half."
Ellinger tried to get his team to play more through the middle and into wide positions in the second half, but it didn't pay off.
Now the focus will shift back to Real's playoff chase. After the All-Star break, Salt Lake, which is tied for fifth-place, will face Colorado.
"Some ways, sometimes, it could be good to get out of this tournament because you can focus on what we need to focus on right now," said captain Jason Kreis. "We are splitting our thoughts in other places, and it could take away from what we need out of this season."
ENDLINES: Midfielder Carey Talley's long-distance strike against Chivas last week was named goal of the week. From 38 yards out, Talley unleashed an unstoppable shot into the upper-right corner of the goal . . . Colorado will next face Los Angeles in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup on Aug. 23 . . . Eddie Pope was selected the MLS All-Star team, but he elected to sit out of this weekend's festivities because of a lingering foot problem . . . Peterson's goal marked yet another killer blow dealt to Salt Lake by one of Ellinger's former U-17 U.S. National Team Players. Throughout 2006, a number of Ellinger's former U-17 youngsters have scored critical goals against RSL. "Another U-17 product putting me in the pooper," Ellinger said afterward.