We've seen the Rocky Mountain Cup go to Real Salt Lake in all sorts of ways in the past seven years, most of them rather uncomfortable. Questionable calls, last second winners, ties that forced cup retention... we've seen it all. Finally, an oddity of a finale went the Rapids way, as an incredibly wet evening yielded a 2-2 draw for the home side, enough to put the cup back on the East side of the Rockies for the first time in quite a while.
Even before the game started, we knew this one was gonna be an oddity. Suspensions knocked out some key players from both teams, leading to slightly interesting starting XI's. On top of that, a rainstorm was brewing in Commerce City, complete with lightning and tornado warnings.
The quick start to the match got our minds off of that quickly, though. It took only two minutes for the first goal of the game to materialize, as some incredibly lazy defending allowed Ned Grabavoy to escape unmarked and onside onto the far post, where he met a Kyle Beckerman cross for an easy finish. Before RSL could finish polishing the trophy though, Deshorn Brown responded with some magic. Clint Irwin shot a long goal kick up the field, which was headed by Marvell Wynne right into Brown's path. (As Marvell was the man who should have been marking Grabavoy on the first goal, he made it up well there.) He was running with two Salt Lake players plastered to his sides, but he was still able to get a goal-of-the-week level diving finish out of it.
The rain kept the match from picking up much pace after that, but RSL did earn a penalty kick in the 21st minute after Drew Moor clipped Robbie Findley in the box on a chase. It wasn't the strongest call, but a penalty nonetheless, and Alvaro Saborio had nearly a full hour to think about where to put the shot when the game was called for a lightning delay immediately after the penalty was awarded.
Unfortunately for Clint Irwin, his correct guess on Saborio's shot didn't result in a save, as it did the first time the two teams met at DSGP. With the field now completely water-logged and the teams out of rhythm, the rest of the first half was uneventful, save for the occasional opportunity created by some good midfield play.
The second half started with a substitute, as Marvell Wynne was pulled off for Jaime Castrillon to add some attacking flair into the Rapids side of the field. It worked. After frustratingly getting runs forward for naught after starting the second half on the right foot, Castrillon finally successfully pulled the El Fantasma routine, and was able to lift himself over an RSL defender for a flicked header that slapped off the pitch and into the net to tie it up.
Though RSL were on a streak of games allowing late goals, not a single person in Dick's Sporting Goods Park had that in mind as the game ticked into stoppage time. Unlike so many times before though, the Rapids held strong and even looked the better team as the final minutes wasted away, and the final whistle provided a wet and wild reception from the crowd.
It didn't quite get us top of the table -- a spot that the New York Red Bulls now surprisingly hold after shocking Sporting Kansas City and watching Montreal Impact get shocked themselves by DC United -- but it got us some silverware back. Go and drink some 5.0% beer from it and let's get ready for Chivas USA.