SANDY, Utah – Colorado nearly did something that none of Real Salt Lake’s last 23 visitors have been able to do: Come away with a win.
But in dramatic fashion, RSL scored a late equalizer to preserve their record home unbeaten streak with a 1-1 draw on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in a fiercely contested battle between the Rocky Mountain Cup rivals.
Rapids forward Conor Casey put the visitors up 1-0 with a laser-like header 36 minutes in. Colorado carried their lead until the 93rd minute, when Nat Borchers put his own header in the back of the net to rescue the dramatic draw and extend RSL's remarkable run at Rio Tinto to 24 games without a loss.
Macoumba Kandji showed some danger early for Colorado, putting pressure on the RSL back line and frustrating several defenders. However, it was teammate Drew Moor who nearly struck for glory early on.
In the 12th minute, he got his head onto a corner kick and it appeared headed for the upper left corner of the net. But Tony Beltran was at the post and was able to knock it away with a leaping header.
Real Salt Lake had a glaring chance batted away by ‘keeper Matt Pickens. In the 29th minute, Fabian Espindola chipped in a short ball that it appeared Pablo Campos was going to get on the end of. But Pickens was able to reach back and knock the ball away just prior to Campos getting to the ball.
In the 36th minute, Colorado put their mark on the game. Casey's goal came off of a quick build-up by the Rapids and culminated in a well-delivered cross from Kosuke Kimura. Then the big Rapids striker showed his aerial prowess, putting the header past a helpless Kyle Reynish.
RSL came out in the second half with a sense of urgency, especially with the introduction of three usual starters after the break: Alvaro Saborio, Kyle Beckerman and Will Johnson.
In the 56th minute, Andy Williams took a surprising shot from long distance. Pickens was able to get his hands on it, but it rolled beyond him in tantalizing fashion before going just wide of the net and out of play.
Just a minute later, Campos brought down an entry pass into the area and Espíndola took a quick shot with his left foot that went wide of the goal to the right, just in front of several onrushing attackers.
Despite the frenetic pace of Real Salt Lake, it appeared Colorado would get on the board again when Casey got free of the defense for a one-on-one with Reynish. His initial shot was blocked by the 'keeper, who went down on the play. Casey looked to head the deflection back into the net, but Borchers made a late recovery to knock the ball away.
The match took a controversial turn in the 87th minute, when referee Ramon Hernandez whistled Marvell Wynne for a handball in the box and pointed to the spot for Salt Lake. But among protests from Colorado players and a consultation with the linesman, Hernandez changed his mind and awarded a drop ball instead, denying RSL an equalizer – at least temporary.
Deep into stoppage time, Williams flipped a long ball over the top to Borchers, whose reverse header sailed past Pickens for the tying goal.
With the draw, Real Salt Lake pulled to within two points of the LA Galaxy in the race for the Supporters' Shield. They travel to Toronto on Tuesday for a CONCACAF Champions League match, then visit New England on Oct. 2.
Colorado drop into the eighth and final playoff spot with 38 points, but have a game in hand over seventh-place Seattle. The Rapids host D.C. United next Saturday.
COL -- Conor Casey 11 (Kosuke Kimura 1, Brian Mullan 1) 36
RSL -- Nat Borchers 1 (Andy Williams 6) 93+
COL -- Conor Casey (caution; Reckless Foul) 10
COL -- Marvell Wynne (caution; Reckless Foul) 16
RSL -- Pablo Campos (caution; Tactical Foul) 32
RSL -- Fabian Espindola (caution; Dissent) 66
RSL -- Collen Warner (caution; Dissent) 78
COL -- Anthony Wallace (caution; Delaying a Restart) 82
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace (Scott Palguta 89), Brian Mullan (Wells Thompson 63), Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, Macoumba Kandji (Ross LaBauex 73), Conor Casey.
Substitutes Not Used: Quincy Amarikwa, Danny Earls, Claudio Lopez, Ian Joyce.
Real Salt Lake -- Kyle Reynish, Tony Beltran, Rauwshan McKenzie, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams, Jean Alexandre (Kyle Beckerman 56), Collen Warner, Ned Grabavoy (Will Johnson 70), Pablo Campos (Alvaro Saborio 62), Fabian Espindola.
Substitutes Not Used: Robbie Findley, Robbie Russell, Chris Schuler, Nick Rimando.
Referee: Ramon Hernandez
Referee's Assistants: Ian Anderson; Paul Scott
4th Official: Yader Reyes
Weather: Clear and 76 degrees