COMMERCE CITY, Colo.—Seven months ago, the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake were two teams inhabiting the Western Conference basement. But Saturday night’s Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry game was a meeting between two teams in the early lead of the Supporter’s Shield standings.
Led again by a Jermaine Jones goal, the Rapids' 1-0 victory over RSL continued Colorado’s unbeaten record at home and extended the team’s current unbeaten streak to five games. After the match, Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni credited the Rapids’ fans for the team’s latest victory and form at home.
“The guys from [Colorado Rapids supporters group] C38 really put things into perspective before the game,” Mastroeni said. “The tifo that said 'Keep Fighting.' What I tell guys all the time is we’re always the underdogs here. You’ve got to believe until the very end.”
One player who has epitomized that mentality is Jones. The Rapids midfielder was once again the difference for Colorado, scoring the opening goal in the 47th minute off a feed from Kevin Doyle to give the Rapids a lead in the early stages of the second half.
[Jones'] ability to get in good spots and deliver the goods has been spectacular for us,” Mastroeni said. “That’s why he is where he is in this game and keeps getting looks from the national team and, at age 34, he’s a guy that still has a lot left in the tank and so much to offer.”
Another Rapids player who seemed to take the “Keep Fighting” mantra to heart was goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Following his gaffe in the two sides’ previous match at Rio Tinto, which led to a 1-0 win by RSL on April 9, MacMath stepped up big with five saves and his fourth clean sheet of the season on Saturday night.
“That last game against Salt Lake, I made a mistake that led to their goal and us losing points,” MacMath said. “I made a point this week to be strong back there and make sure I give everything possible to give us a shutout and three points.”
With the win, Colorado sits alone atop the Western Conference and Supporter’s Shield standings. Two-thirds of the schedule remain, which leaves little time to celebrate the team’s accomplishments to this point.
“Not in this profession,” Mastroeni said. “It’s good for the night to reflect on, but we start prep tonight for Wednesday night’s game [against Sporting Kansas City]. There’s no rest.”