A Colorado Rapids squad missing its primary scoring threat fought back from two goals down to salvage a draw against Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Real Salt Lake on a blustery night in Sandy, Utah.
The Rapids were forced to field an attack without several prominent members of the senior squad, as Jack McBean, Yannick Boli, and Sam Nicholson started up front. Rapids’ top goalscorer Dominique Badji (Finalizing Green Card), playmaker Shkëlzen Gashi (Family Emergency), and new signing Giles Barnes (Injury) were all absent.
Everything went wrong in the first twenty minutes for Colorado, as RSL powered ahead to an early two-goal lead, with goals from Damir Kreilach and Joao Plata. Then, the storm bearing over Salt Lake City drifted towards Rio Tinto Stadium and Referee Baldomero Toledo interrupted play.
The weather delay offered the Rapids a lifeline.
The Colorado team that returned looked remarkably different than the side that had graced the field an hour beforehand. The Rapids substituted Enzo Martinez for Boli and switched to a 4-4-2 – a shocking departure from Anthony Hudson’s traditional three-at-the-back approach.
“It just wasn’t working in the first twenty minutes for a few reasons,” Colorado’s manager explained, “so we changed the shape, changed the personnel, and the response was instantaneous.”
There was a clear sense of urgency emanating from the players following the break and their hard work quickly paid off. RSL’s Damir Kreilach made a harsh challenge on Sam Nicholson in the box and Toledo awarded a penalty to the Rapids after video review. Jack McBean buried the attempt and it was game-on in Sandy.
The rest of the game saw several chances go begging for both Colorado and RSL, until Dillon Serna was substituted on for an injured Kortne Ford in the eighty-fifth minute.
Three minutes into his appearance, Serna found the back of the net.
Wingback Edgar Castillo weaved through several Salt Lake defenders before firing off a shot that was spilled by Goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Serna pounced on the rebound and stunned the RSL faithful.
“There’s not a better feeling than silencing the crowd like that,” Serna explained, “Luckily it fell to me and I put it away.”
The result delighted Anthony Hudson, who praised his side after the match and recognized the weather delay for providing him an opportunity to adjust the team’s approach.
“Full credit to the players, their response was excellent,” Hudson said. “The weather delay really helped us because we were able to come in and change a few things.”
The draw ensures that the final leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup at Dick’s Sporting Good’s park will be the deciding match in the intra-MLS rivalry. “The trophy’s still alive,” Hudson concluded, adding that he was “really pleased that we can take the draw back to Denver.”
Image Credit: Jeff Swinger/USA Today