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#RSLvCOL: Breaking down the key plays

The Rapids missed out on their last real chance at silverware for the 2019 season.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids went into Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night needing to beat Real Salt Lake by two goals to take back the Rocky Mountain Cup and do something to salvage the all-but-lost 2019 season. What happened instead was a 2-0 defeat in which a 10-man Rapid side gave up two goals in the closing minutes of the game.

Let’s take a look at the goals.

RSL finally breaks open the scoring (90’)

Two things were disappointing about this goal. First, the handball call. As a biased Rapids fan, this one seemed a little harsh for me. Yes, Lalas Abubakar’s arm is away from his body, but you can make the argument that he is bracing himself before he runs into his fellow defender. That would make it a natural position, plus the ball was struck from point-blank into Abubakar and it hit his hip first.

All in all, I can see this call being made either way, so Rapids fans will feel hard done. Where this really gets me is that a ball hit an RSL player’s hand from point-blank in the first half but it was not even reviewed. While I’m not claiming that one should have been called, it seems weird to be so adamant about Abubakar’s being a penalty and not even considering the other one.

One thing to note is that the handball rules will be changing next season to match the new FIFA rules that came into effect on June 1st. These rules state that if the hand is outside the silhouette of the body, it is a handball. No questions asked. That would make Abubakar’s play a penalty without question in 2020.

Second, it’s disappointing that Tim Howard was able to get a hand on this shot, but couldn’t keep it out of the goal. Looking at the shot, it isn’t so much on Howard, but more on the power of the shot by Joao Plata. Props to him, but still disappointing.

RSL doubles their lead (90’)

Not gonna lie, this goal felt pointless by the time it happened, and I struggled to even be upset about it. Now looking at the replay, I am a little more upset because it was just terrible defense.

The Rapids were making an effort to try and tie the game, so they were pushed up high and even had Tommy Smith as another striker. This left them vulnerable in the back, but it shouldn’t have been this easy.

Albert Rusnak takes the ball and turns the corner on the Rapids defender almost without even trying. Once he gets to the endline, you cannot let him get by you on his way toward goal. Sadly, the Rapids defender is so afraid of a cutback or a cross that he just allows Rusnak to go right by him.

From here, Rusnak is the one in control of the play. He forces Abubakar to commit to defending him and cutting him off from getting all the way to the goal. This leaves room for the ball to get played back toward the top of the 6-yard-box.

Finally, the ball is played and Jefferson Savarino taps it in. Once Abubakar had to commit to the endline, Kellyn Acosta should have been the player to cover the space where Savarino received the ball. Unfortunately, he is so far up the field pressing for the tying goal that he can’t make his way back in time.

Other Notes

The result was unlucky

Watching the first half of Saturday’s game, it is crazy to think that Colorado didn’t score a goal. They may not have had much of the possession, but they created a number of chances. Without a goal-saving clearance by Justen Glad and a few great saves by Nick Rimando, the Rapids could have easy bagged a few goals. Add in the fact that RSL scored both their goals in the 90th minute and stoppage time against a 10-man side, and this game was probably undeserving of a 2-0 final.

In particular, I thought the Rapids played really well in the first 25 minutes or so. They came out aggressive and took it to RSL, and that is when they created the majority of their chances.

Finally, Brooks Lennon probably deserved a second yellow card early in the second half, and Kei Kamara’s red card was a bit unlucky. Lennon got a yellow early in the game and was forced into another foul early in the second half. Based on the other cards given by the referee on Saturday, it should have been a second yellow. For Kamara, he looks like he was genuinely going for the volley when he went into Lennon. Unfortunately, it made him go into Lennon studs-first and very high. Whether contact was made or not, I see why the red card was given.

Good luck new guy

Because of how everything played out, Robin Fraser will be without Acosta, Abubakar, and Kamara for his first game in New York this weekend. Those three are three of the easiest names to put on the team sheet each week, so Fraser is already stuck behind the eight ball in his first game. How he works around this and sets up a team tactically to overcome the missing players will be interesting to see.

Another questionable decision by the Rapids organization was to loan out Sebastian Anderson and Cole Bassett last weekend. If they knew that they were going to be bringing in a new coach in the coming days, you would think that you would want to keep all the guys around so that he can evaluate them himself. With all the suspensions, the Rapids could always call Bassett back up, but who knows if loaning him effected his confidence at all.

Finally, I want to wish Fraser good luck. He is a Colorado guy and has said in some of his early interviews that he feels like he grew a lot tactically in the years that he has been an assistant since leaving Chivas USA. I look forward to seeing what he does with the Rapids offense and defense, two things that have been all over the board a bit all year.

Have any other thoughts? Let us know in the comments section!