The first leg of 2022's Rocky Mountain Cup ended in a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw after the Colorado Rapids clawed back and dictated much of the play on Saturday. While not the win they'd like to put a hold on the Cup right away, it was Colorado's 19th straight home match resulting in points.
Mark-Anthony Kaye, fresh off qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar, returned and slid right back into his starting midfield spot. Lucas Estevez also returned to the starting lineup as Colorado fielded a familiar XI against their next-door neighbors.
It was Kaye who got the first dangerous move started for the Rapids on the night in the 4th minute. His needle-threading through ball to Jonathan Lewis sent him into the box, where he dropped for Diego Rubio following him in. Rubio's cannon shot was parried away by keeper Zac MacMath but woke up the crowd early.
Colorado did a nice job early releasing runners with perfectly placed long balls in behind defenders. One led to a fantastic low ball across the RSL penalty area by Michael Barrios in the 13th minute, somehow skidded past MacMath and Rubio as both hung a leg out, and the Rapids missed a golden chance early in the first half.
Real Salt Lake went on a bit of a mini-run for about five minutes after the 25th, keeping Colorado back in their defending third and winning a few consecutive corner kicks. Still, the Rapids kept anything from really troubling William Yarbrough.
Colorado got back on the front foot in the 38th minute when a sublime long ball from Estevez found Rubio down the left. He slid across to Lewis in the middle, but after a quick touch, the shot rose over the crossbar by a good distance.
RSL finally got what they were looking for after very little threat to that point. A penalty kick was given late in the first half as Justin Meram shot forward on the ground being defended by Keegan Rosenberry just inside the left side of the area. Pablo Ruiz converted to the left side and the lead at halftime.
With RSL bunkered back defending in their own half, it was difficult for Colorado to pick through all the white shirts early in the second half. A foul on Lewis just outside the box provided the first opportunity to trouble MacMath in the 56th minute. Rubio's freekick from the left top crashed into the wall and into Colorado's possession. Keeping it alive to Barrios on the right, Mikey slipped a delicious ball to the far post, where a lunging Lalas Abubakar tipped it in for to tie things up at one.
Lalas Abubakar puts it away! This one's level at 1-1! pic.twitter.com/WTGeGcFVkm— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 3, 2022
That goal pulled the visitors out of their shell a bit, and the Rapids were able to find a little joy slipping into different spots going forward again. However, RSL put together a little combination play on the left leaving Yarbrough to make a reaction save from a shot right at the keeper and out for a corner kick in the 77th minute.
Andre Shinyashiki came in with some fresh attacking legs for Colorado in the 84th minute after RSL had made three changes to that point. Barrios earned the last good look for the Rapids in the 90th minute after a quick turn and being fouled hard deep on the right side just outside the box. The free kick into the scrum in front of RSL's goal was headed just wide left on a tight one.
The Rapids didn't make any excuses afterward, but said plainly it's just a matter of doing that little bit better in making a difference from here on out.
Colorado is on the road the next two weekends, in Dallas and Minnesota.