COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Forget Los Angeles vs. San Jose or New York and D.C. United. There’s a rivalry that just keeps getting better out in the thin air of the Rocky Mountains.
Alvaro Saborio converted a last-gasp penalty kick and capitalized on a strange flub from Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens to help Real Salt Lake escape Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a stunning 2-2 draw on Saturday night to earn their fourth consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup.
The result also kept RSL alive in the race for the franchise’s first-ever Supporters’ Shield, and they’ll wait until Sunday’s season finale to find out if the shiniest silverware is theirs. Salt Lake (15-4-11) are even with Los Angeles on points heading into the Galaxy’s finale against FC Dallas, and will need an FCD win to claim the Shield based on goal differential.
RSL will also wait on the Galaxy’s result to determine their playoff fate, carrying either the top seed in the Western Conference or the second spot into the postseason.
The draw was nothing short of a sucker punch for the Rapids (12-8-10), who came up short in the effort to wrestle the Rocky Mountain Cup away from their regional rivals. Colorado will face the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference semifinals as they return to the postseason for the first time since 2006 this week, but even that bit of good news may not be enough to make this one any easier to take.
Colorado led 2-0 before Real Salt Lake mounted an unlikely comeback beginning in the 91st minute. Saborío pressured Pickens on a seemingly harmless clearance in the penalty box, deflecting the ball back off the Colorado crossbar. Pickens failed on his attempt to corral the ball and it bounced to Saborío, who thumped home the rebound to cut the lead to 2-1.
The heartbreaking, however, was still to come. Colorado midfielder Brian Mullan was whistled for taking down RSL’s Jamison Olave in the penalty box on a 93rd-minute free kick, and Saborío coolly converted the ensuing penalty kick in front of a Rapids supporters contingent who just minutes before were nearly celebrating long-awaited bragging rights in the region.
Instead the Rocky Mountain Cup will stay with RSL because of a deadlock in the series this year. The Rapids also blew a late 1-0 lead against RSL in the series’ first game on Sept. 25, when Nat Borchers scored in the 93rd minute to save a 1-1 draw for RSL.
RSL also set a new single-season MLS record for fewest goals allowed (20), topping the former record of 23 set by the 2007 Houston Dynamo. They also set a new mark for overall goal differential, finishing with a plus-25 mark that tops the former mark of plus-22 set by D.C. United in 2007 and the 2005 San Jose Earthquakes.
The draw soured a solid night for Colorado’s duo of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey, who each scored a goal to give the Rapids a 2-0 lead.
Cummings put the Rapids up in the 16th minute thanks to a sweeping left-footed cross from defender Anthony Wallace. The Jamaican striker coolly pivoted near the top of the goal box and skipped a left-footed volley to the back post for his 14th goal of the season and some early breathing room for the hosts.
That lead held until Casey got into the mix for his 13th goal of the season just after the break. The Rapids’ imposing target man worked his way to the back post to put a head on defender Kosuke Kimura’s cross, beating goalkeeper Nick Rimando before the Rapids players swarmed in celebration.
But in the end, the celebration was short-lived and premature. In a rivalry that seems to get better with age, the boys west of the Rocky Mountains are still the champs here, and the others on the Colorado Front Range are left wondering how it all disappeared so fast into thin air.
COL -- Omar Cummings 14 (Anthony Wallace 1) 16
COL -- Conor Casey 13 (Kosuke Kimura 3) 51
RSL -- Alvaro Saborio 11 (unassisted) 91+
RSL -- Alvaro Saborio 12 (penalty kick) 95+
Real Salt Lake -- Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams (Ned Grabavoy 61), Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson (Collen Warner 76), Robbie Findley (Paulo Araujo Jr. 61), Alvaro Saborio.
Substitutes Not Used: Jean Alexandre, Tony Beltran, Rauwshan McKenzie, Kyle Reynish.
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace (Julien Baudet 84), Brian Mullan, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith (Wells Thompson 46), Conor Casey (Macoumba Kandji 64), Omar Cummings.
Substitutes Not Used: Quincy Amarikwa, Claudio Lopez, Scott Palguta, Ian Joyce.
COL -- Conor Casey (caution; Reckless Foul) 24
RSL -- Jamison Olave (caution; Reckless Foul) 55
COL -- Anthony Wallace (caution; Tactical Foul) 80
RSL -- Ned Grabavoy (caution; Reckless Tackle) 83
COL -- Drew Moor (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee's Assistants: Steven Taylor; Thomas Supple
4th Official: Jasen Anno
Time of Game: 1:56
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-57-degrees