I was wrong about a few things on this game, although few of them were bad things to be wrong about. One thing I got right was that referee Baldomero Toledo, famous for making himself the headliner of every game he refs, was going to make somebody pay tonight with his famous potency. Unfortunately for us, that team tonight was the Colorado Rapids.
The Rapids started off the game in a surprisingly strong fashion, with Jamie Smith defending much better than we've come to expect from him in the middle replacing Pablo Mastroeni. Tyrone Marshall also started the game in the center of the defense with Anthony Wallace out, Drew Moor shifted over to take Wallace's usual spot. Wells Thompson filled in at right midfield. Real Salt Lake came out with their usual formation and most of their usual players, with Will Johnson obviously missing after his red card against the New England Revolution.
Colorado played quite well as the game went along, although similar to the Dallas game they lacked much creativity in the midfield since Pablo was missing - they still very much miss his talents in the midfield and his being back for the game against the Seattle Sounders on the 22nd will be vital - but with Jamie Smith mounting the position rather than Joesph Nane, there was enough offensive talent to keep the ball moving.
The defense quite impressed me tonight, stealing the ball away with great frequency even without Anthony Wallace and with Drew Moor playing left back, a position that isn't really his usual forte. Except for the numerous offside attempts by Salt Lake, the attack was basically squelched and although they gave away a couple too many corner kicks, they handled them quite well in the box, I don't believe there were any overt chances off of their corners although they had nine all told to the Rapids two.
The second half began with Quincy Amarikwa being brought in for Omar Cummings, who had looked somewhat tired and slow on the pitch to that point. Not a minute later, a vicious tackle brought Amarikwa down - there was no card on the dangerous tackle, by the way - and Sanna Nyassi had to get brought in in his stead. Amarikwa's talent up top was missed quickly as Nyassi tried to adapt a high midfield role, sort of a mid/striker hybrid if you will, and was unable to make much of it. Nyassi eventually did create one of the best chances for the Rapids, a cross right near the byline which probably would have made it to Caleb Folan if not for a diving Nick Rimando. Andre Akpan was brought in later in the game after Caleb Folan got a knock - although Caleb did stay on the pitch, the sub was most likely to get some extra striking talent up top - but wasn't on long enough to make any sort of real impact.
As the game had gone along, Baldomero Toledo was fairly quiet and other than a couple of questionable calls that we see from pretty much every referee and a couple of routine cards to Tyrone Marshall, Javier Morales and Marvell Wynne. In the second minute of stoppage time, he finally decided to make his move, calling a foul mere feet from the box after Brian Mullan got the ball in midair with his leg and caught an RSL player on the way. Perhaps a foul in some games but far worse had been left to play on earlier in the match. Fabian Espindola ran in offside - I know, what a shock to see him offside! - and took the free kick from off the post off another Salt Lake player and stuck it in. A double salvo of questionable calls, if you will.
A surprisingly chipper game to watch considering how bad the Rapids looked against Dallas. Good offensive movement and several close chances on goal with shutdown defending only ruined by the call at the end where just about any team above the high school level probably could have scored. Pretty good play by the Rapids fails again due to referee interference, but at this point I think we're used to it.