SANDY, Utah -- After two 1-0 victories by in the first two legs of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Cup, the Colorado Rapids found an early goal, but weren’t able to make it stand up for the victory in the deciding on Friday night as part of Heineken Rivalry Week at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It was important for us to come in with the right mindset and right attitude because of everything that was on the line,” Colorado head coach Pablo Mastroeni said after the game.
The Rapids missed a chance to add a little separation and overtake Dallas in the standings, if only until Saturday. Friday’s game had a lot involved with it and on the field the Rapids “were a bit naive” about it, Mastroeni said.
“It had a bunch of different angles,” he said. “It has playoff implications, [Supporters’ Shield] implications and the [Rocky Mountain Cup], as well.
“Tonight, we were second best.”
While scoring is never a bad thing, Mastroeni lamented the performance after the early tally.
“Obviously, scoring early flips the game on its head,” Mastroeni said. “We were stretched in large moments in the first half, had large spaces to play through. If we don't have that part right, we're going to struggle and tonight it was very obvious that was the case.”
But despite the lead and a strong finish, the Rapids' intensity fell away as the lead was erased and eventually taken away.
“Individually, we weren't good enough. Collectively, we weren't good enough. The energy wasn't there,” Mastroeni said. “Great goal by [Shkelzen] Gashi. World class performance by [Tim] Howard, but if you don't have more players that are competing at that level you don't stand a chance.
“Tonight we were second to every ball and second best everywhere.”
Gashi has scored in each of the past three road games for Colorado and is the team’s leading goal scorer this season with five. In the fifth minute, he pounced on a rebound from a Dominique Badji shot to poke it past Nick Rimando toward the far post for the early 1-0 lead.
“He's the caliber of player that can make a difference on any team and I think he has for us on both sides of the ball,” Mastroeni said. “He's been integral in what we’ve done.”
Gashi had Colorado’s last best shot at equalizing in the 87th minute where he forced a diving save from Rimando on a shot from the outside of his foot.
On the other side of the field, Howard kept the Rapids in the game, especially in the second half with RSL enjoying plenty of attacking opportunities. Howard fought off two penalty kicks that would have extended Salt Lake’s lead, made a diving save on a deflected shot and had another bounce off the post to hold the score at 2-1.
“Without Timmy this game would have been really turned on its head,” Mastroeni said. “Fantastic performance from his part to keep us in the game.”