The die-hard Colorado Rapids caught a few breaks, overcame a two-goal deficit by scoring twice to regional rival Real Salt Lake, and arrived home on their late charter with a road point. They also earned a momentary sigh of relief and a much-needed bolus of self-confidence.
They also may have laid down a timely cornerstone to build during a season that has gone completely sideways.
The tit-for-tat first half almost concluded in a 0-0 stalemate, however, in stoppage dealt a blow to the Rapids. RSL’s Pablo Ruiz took a pass from early substitute, Justin Meram, near the midfield circle. The crafty Ruiz sent a long ball to Jefferson Savarino, who was unmarked yards from the top of the 18. The forward dribbled then bent a shot into goal, right past defender Lalas Abubakar and the outstretched Will Yarbrough.
1-0 Real Salt Lake at the interval.
The Rapids did have several close encounters within the RSL’s 18 during the first half. Diego Rubio, Gyasi Zardes and Max were all well-positioned to score, yet stellar goalkeeping by former Rapid, Zach McMath, and a mountain of bad luck kept the Rapids from finding the back of the net.
Real came out of the locker room amped up from a per usual- close-out-the-game lecture from their skipper, Pablo Mastroeni.
His side earned a foul and free kick in the 55th minute of the skirmish. Pablo Ruiz fired the ball into the crossbar. It ricocheted and came bouncing backing towards a free-as-a-bird Meram, who dove head first at the ball and promptly headed it into the the goal.
Two-nil Real and the Rapids looked both deflated and doomed to go down in defeat.
Like Masteroni, Rapids head coach, Robin Fraser, held court with his players during their intermission. His frank words were taken to heart, as his team did not wither in Rio Tinto Stadium.
“The discussion at halftime was we felt like we had the better of the play,” Fraser stated during the post-game press conference. “We felt like we created some good chances. Just because we’ve given up a goal, don’t get away from what we do and continue to be disciplined. And we really saw that discipline and the sort of intensity that you need to compete and win big games.”
Fraser’s Burgundy Boy dug deep and went at RSL as if was a one-game playoff game.
Twelve minutes after Real’s second goal, substitute Michael Barrios was taken down inside box. Rubio stepped up to take the penalty kick and swiftly struck it past MacMath who lunged in the wrong direction.
Then in the 89th minute of play, old reliable Lalas Abubakar came up big with a man-of-the-match goal. It was the Ghanaian’s second goal in two games. His right-footed stab at Zardes’ header attempt that went awry found it’s destiny and brought the away fans to their feet up in the second deck.
Abubakar’s goal was practically a carbon copy of his goal againt Austin FC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.