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Commerce City, Colo. • It was pretty much everything a soccer fan could want this early in the season: Two rivals squaring off for the Rocky Mountain Cup and also the best record in MLS.

It did not disappoint. The Colorado Rapids scored moments into the second half Saturday night and held on for a hard-fought 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The win kept the Rapids in contention for the Rocky Mountain Cup. They also took sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.

"I feel on the night, probably a draw was more accurate," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said. "I didn't feel like they were the better team. They just put away their chance and we didn't. It was a hard fought game. First place teams battling it out. We lost and we have to move on. That's what it is."

If the Rapids needed validation around the league that their turnaround this season is for real, this verdict would seem to go a long way, coming against top-quality team. And again, the Rapids' most valuable newcomer turned the game.

Colorado's Jermaine Jones scored in the 47th minute, finishing a play involving strikers Luis Solignac and Kevin Doyle. Solignac passed to Doyle in full-steam attack. Doyle attracted defenders and laid the ball off to Jones, who found the net inside the left post for the 1-0 lead.

"We turned the ball over I think it was about 35 yards from goal," Cassar said. "Had it contained and we just didn't do a good job — it was combination passes and then Jones coming late. It was good work by them."

It was Jones' third goal in four games since making his Rapids debut April 16.

"Jones was dangerous all night coming from that late position," Cassar said. "We had spoke about it. Probably didn't deal with it great. And I think we turned the ball over in poor areas that led to us retreating back to our goal and you never want that."

With unseasonably cool temperatures and the threat of bad weather, a spirited and entertaining contest unfolded from the outset with the Rapids playing the aggressor and creating plenty of promising scoring chances with RSL looking dangerous when it was able to advance.

The crowd cried out for a penalty kick when RSL forward Juan Manuel Martinez toppled Colorado's Luis Solignac in the penalty area in the 39th minute but referee Jair Marrufo made no call.

Colorado had the edge in possession in the first half, but that swung RSL's way late in the game as the visitors pressed for the equalizer. Colorado outshot RSL 17-13.

RSL won the first match this season between the two rivals on April 9. The third and final game in the duel for the cup will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium on Aug. 26.

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