COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Rocky Mountain Cup is changing hands for the first time in seven years.
Colorado Rapids substitute Jaime Castrillon's late header took the Cup away from RSL for the first time since 2006 as Real Salt Lake drew with the Rapids 2-2 on Saturday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The draw, however, gave RSL their first result in three games, allowing them to stay atop the MLS's Western Conference standings, and despite the late equalizer, there was an auspicious mood in the visiting locker room postgame.
"I think it's positive," RSL striker Alvaro Saborio said of the result. "We have to be patient to try to win the next game (Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Portland) because it's very important."
On a stormy, windy night in suburban Denver, it was RSL that got on the scoresheet in a matter of seconds. In his first game back with RSL in more than a month, Kyle Beckerman delivered a pinpoint cross to an open Neal Grabavoy, who completed the easy finish for his fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead just 77 seconds into the match. The goal sent a vocal group of traveling RSL fans into a craze, but the excitement wouldn't last long.
Ex-Colorado player Nat Borchers had a critical mistake on the Rapids' equalizer eight minutes later. With Rapids striker Deshorn Brown hot on his tail off a goal kick, Borchers didn't hear the footsteps and Brown got around Borchers and fired it home for his sixth goal of the season and the ninth-minute equalizer.
In a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes, however, Real Salt Lake earned a penalty kick thanks to a crafty move from one of their veteran strikers. On the eve of his 28th birthday, Robbie Findley, one-on-one with Rapids defender Drew Moor in the box, made a nifty cut to his right, fooling Moor and earning an undisputed penalty kick.
But just as Saborio was lining up to take the kick, the skies opened up. Lightning was detected within six miles of the stadium, sending the game into an automatic delay.
Following a 62-minute weather delay due to lightning and a thunderstorm that rolled through the stadium, Saborio coolly converted from the spot to put RSL back up 2-1 in the 21st minute on his eighth goal of the season. It put his team back in the driver's seat for the Cup and three needed points.
Javier Morales was forced off in the 24th minute due to injury, with Khari Stephenson coming on in his place.
Leading 2-1 at the half, RSL came out of the break on the defensive. Rimando was called on again in the 53rd minute to make two fantastic reflex saves off a corner kick.
But the cracks started to show early in the second half, as RSL struggled to hold possession of the ball. And after a slew of chances for the home side, the Rapids got their deserved equalizer in the 70th minute.
Rapids left back Chris Klute's cross into the box was met by a charging Castrillon, who converted from close range to pull the Rapids level at 2-2.
Rimando was at his absolute best to keep the game level, making two brilliant saves late in regulation to allow Real Salt Lake to collect its first point in three games, but even Rimando's return couldn't keep the coveted silverware from returning to Colorado for the first time since 2006.
"I thought we knocked the ball pretty well in the first half, got out of sorts in the second half, wasn't as organized as I'd like us to be and sharp," Rimando said postgame. "But we got a result, and that's what matters. Yes, we didn't win the Rocky Mountain Cup, and that means a lot to the fans, but we got a result."
Saturday night marked Beckerman's and Rimando's first games back since missing four games apiece while away with the U.S. men's national team for Gold Cup duty.
The Claret-and-Cobalt head home for a busy week, starting with Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the Timbers at Rio Tinto, followed by Saturday's regular-season match with the Houston Dynamo, also in Sandy.
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