SANDY, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Rocky Mountain Cup is staying with Real Salt Lake, but the full three points eluded them Saturday night, as the Colorado Rapids scored two second half goals to earn a 2-2 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium.
In front of a Club-record ninth consecutive sellout, Real Salt Lake looked to maintain possession of the Rocky Mountain Cup. In order to keep the trophy in Sandy, Utah RSL needed to secure a win or a draw against long-time rivals.
Jefferson Savarino and Justin Meram each scored a goal to break open a tight game and give Real Salt Lake a 2-0 lead. Savarino has tallied three goals and two assists in six matches since rejoining RSL in May.
Howeber, late goals from Diego Rubio and Lalas Abubakar rallied the Colorado Rapids from a two-goal deficit to salvage a 2-2 tie.
“We played really well tonight,” Mastroeni said. “We were dangerous and we created some really nice chances. We, for the most part, did a good job at defensively managing a lot of their direct play. The takeaway is to continue building on what we’ve been able to achieve. And again, the game of football, for me, is not about halves, it’s not about 15-minute periods–it’s about moments. And there’s a lot of moments in a soccer game and you just never know when they’re going to come. Especially that last goal they scored, things that we go over in training, things that we talk about before the game, the emphasis to really lock down and stay mentally clear and set pieces against a team that really thrives on set pieces. Again, it’s a long season, we have to learn from this, and we have to move forward.”
Real Salt Lake (8-5-6, 30 points) is unbeaten in nine home matches. RSL has claimed 21 of a possible 27 points at home.
Colorado (5-8-5, 20 points) remains winless in nine road matches after giving up multiple goals for the fourth time in its last five matches. The Rapids have allowed 12 goals in that stretch.
Throughout much of the first half the two sides struggled to dominate possession, alternating half chances on either side of midfield. The Claret-and-Cobalt’s best chance came in the 24th minute when Meram forced a goal-line clearance from one of Colorado’s defenders. In the final minutes of the first half Zac MacMath was forced the make a point-blank save, blocking a shot from Gyasi Zardes to preserve the 0-0 scoreline. With first half stoppage coming to a close, it seemed as the two sides would head into the locker room deadlocked, but a moment of brilliance from Savarino, following passes from Pablo Ruiz and Meram saw RSL take the 1-0 lead.
“I’ll give an assist to Pablo Mastroeni,” Meram said. “He shouted that I needed to crash the box on that set piece and what the coach asks, I better do. Pablo[Ruiz] made an unbelievable shot and it was one of those balls where it was bouncing way too hard to get a foot on it. I don’t score very many headers but I’ll take that one.”
Real Salt Lake came out of the halftime break swinging, doubling its lead in the 51st minute when Meram headed in a rebound off the crossbar from a Ruiz free kick. Just a few minutes later Sergio Cordova nearly netted one of his own, but his headed shot bounced off the post. Just 13 minutes shy of breaking the Club’s longest home shutout streak, Colorado was awarded a penalty kick after a foul from Marcelo Silva in the box. Diego Rubio was able to bury the shot in the 67th minute.
After lots of back and forth between the two sides, the Rapids found the equalizer in the 89th minute. Zardes rose up and headed the ball ahead to Lalas Abubakar whose right-footed shot snuck past the fingertips of MacMath and into the side netting to knot the score at 2-2. RSL pushed numbers forward looking for the game-winner, but the team was unable to slip one through into the back of the net and the match ended tied 2-2.
Real Salt Lake heads East to take on Atlanta United FC on Wednesday, July 13 at 5:30 p.m. MT