Things were going okay tonight until about 20 minutes in. Real Salt Lake had a breakaway and Tim Howard came all the way out of the 18-yard-box. He didn’t get to the ball before the RSL player got the shot off. Howard blocked it with his body, but the ref deemed it a handball outside of the box and gave the keeper a straight red. They did review it, and still handed down the red. I was at Rio Tinto Stadium and they didn’t show a replay, but it sounds like the ball may have hit Howard’s left arm. Either way, Jack McBean went out and the Rapids went down a man.
Zac MacMath came in and immediately made a great save, followed by many more throughout the night. As expected, RSL took advantage of Colorado being down a man and laid on the pressure. That being said, the Rapids did have a couple chances but weren’t able to do anything with them.
Hudson didn’t make any subs at the half, but he did tweak the Rapids’ formation into a 4-3-1--1.
At one point, Johan Blomberg went down and it looked as though Shkelzen Gashi was going to come in, but Blomberg stayed in the game and seemed fine. RSL hammered pressure in the second half, but the Rapids defense stayed strong: Enzo Martinez saved a ball off the line and MacMath came up big again off of a dangerous free kick to keep the game tied 0-0.
Gashi finally subbed in for Enzo in the 68th minute and paired up top with Badji, and then Yannick Boli subbed in for Badji in the 75th minute.
In the 80th minute there was a scrum in front of the net. The ball was cleared out but VAR stepped in and determined that Tommy Smith had a handball in the box, which meant Salt Lake was awarded a penalty kick. MacMath guessed the right way, but Joao Plata put it in the back of the net to put the Sandy side up 1-0.
The Rapids kept pushing to even it up, but as the game was closing out, Damir Kreilach scored his first goal of the season, then Albert Rusnak blasted in a free kick in stoppage time for a final score of 3-0.
A loss always stings, especially when involves RSL, but I think the Rapids deserve some credit here. Hudson continued to make offensive subs, even though they were playing a man down. He adjusted the formation at halftime and the Burgundy Boys continued to fight for a point (or three). They never gave up or sat back. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result this time.
After the game, Coach Hudson said “This season so far, I have not seen a more one-sided opening to a game. I thought with eleven players on the pitch we were incredibly dominant, maybe a couple of times they countered on us, but we were incredibly strong up until they sent him [Howard] off. With ten men, I think the players deserve a lot of credit because they stayed in the game for a long time. They were organized, they were disciplined, they showed a lot of character. Obviously after the penalty, we tried and chased it and opened up a little bit.”