Rapids v RSL
The Rapids play valiantly, and then undo themselves for RSL to retain the cup
Benjamin Kowalsky
Oct 24th 2010

The Rocky Mountain Cup stays in Utah for another year, though it would seem that Real Salt Lake did everything they could to lose it in the 90 minutes of standard time both at home and away. A freak goal, and a soft penalty was all that it took to keep the Cup in Utah. The trash talk has of course begun already, and began before they game. Real fans showed up expecting anything but a loss, and certainly should not have been satisfied with their teamsí abysmal performance. However, trash talk being what it is, you have to expect that many fans will just be satisfied with the draw regardless of how the result was reached.

The ought to be no doubt that the Rapids tore up the pitch for 90 minutes of some of the most motivated and clinical soccer that they have played all year. Casey continued his fantastic run of form that began (Iíd argue) in L.A: he was a complete pest to the Salt Lake starting back 4, especially giving problems to Olave (who I was told was limping a bit from a nagging hamstring injury). But the account wasnít opened by him, rather by Omar Cummings with a brilliant single touch off a Wallace cross. Rimando could do nothing but scream at his back line as Omar ran to celebrate.

The second goal was almost exactly the same set up from last time: Kimura with an absolutely fantastic cross into the box, and Conor fighting the big men Olave and Richards to put the ball in the net. The Rapids were in rare form. Absolutely rare.

The Midfield was sharper than it has ever been. I believe, and I havenít looked at the numbers, that our Midfield is the oldest part of our team. The Defense remains quite young, with the exception of Baudet, but with the exception of Wells and young Ross, the Midfield is quite a bit older on average than the rest of the team. For good reason: they bring invaluable experience in, and it showed.

Jeff was a fantastic, Brian was absolutely deadly going forward, and Smith is really coming into his own as a playmaker. But the real story of the night was Captain Pablo Mastroeni. His motivation was absolutely unquestionable: there was fire in his belly the likes of which Iíve not seen all year. He got himself in between players as if he knew exactly where a pass was going for an interception...he took the ball away seemingly at will.

Pablo was all over Kyle Beckerman, and having a good time of it. I had a feeling this was going to be a match up weíd see quite frequently get chippy during the match, and it did at some points though I canít help but think it was little more than friendly rough-housing. Even though both of them wanted to win one for the fans, I thought the play between the two of them was less malicious and more playful than anything else. I could be wrong though. They could hate each other. But I just wasnít seeing that.

The back four of the Rapids showed me exactly why this team is a different one than last year. Certainly, Omar and Conor are goal scoring machines. Omar has really come into his own. Kosuke Kimura has improved his crossing exponentially: where last year he was entirely ineffectual, now I feel like almost every ball played in from him is going to find someone who can put it in the net. Anthony Wallace has truly shown himself to be both an asset going forward as well as an absolute beast going back. He is a young player who I can only see getting better as we go for the coming seasons. Marvell Wynne at center back has turned out to be a genius move by Gary Smith. His ability to close down was absolutely essential in keeping Findley completely ineffectual. Findley is fast, so find someone faster to mark him. And thatís what happened.

Drew Moor deserves his own paragraph. This guy came to us from Dallas as a good, young guy, with a great arial game and a fantastic attitude. He has become, over the past season-and-a-half, THE leader of the Rapids back four. I feel like this is no doubt part from the influence of veteran Julien Baudet, and the communication and leadership skills he brought over from being Captain of Crewe Alexandria. Watching Drew Moor come into his own as a leader and our own personal Ironman (he has played every single minute of every single game this season) is one of those things that makes you glad to stick with a club season-over-season. You just donít appreciate it if you donít stick around.

Now. With all that. How did we tie?

Gary Smith called the ending of the game a ďfarceĒ. And I have to agree with him. It was a terrible end to what was a fantastic display by the Rapids. Itís like we made the most delicious Sundae you can imagine, and then put a chunk of cat dump on the top.

It doesnít take away the fact that the rest of the Sundae is delicious. But somehow you just canít get over the fact that there is cat dump on top. You can try to get around it, but no matter which way you try to scoop it... thereís cat dump on there.

And if I had to compare Salt Lakeís game to something with cat dump, I would say it was more like a very thick jawbreaker with a cat dump in the middle. Sure, the outer layers are tasty, but once you penetrate to the core of the matter, you realize youíve been enjoying something with a cat dump in there the whole time. You get a bit disgusted with yourself, but life goes on.

You also get the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Matt Pickens had a once-in-a-career error of judgment that was, as most goalkeeper errors are, costly. Pickens wasted too much time in setting up his goal kick, which allowed Saborio to pounce on the ball and block the shot. Then he struck the ball straight into the back of the net.

The second goal goal came from a very soft penalty call in the box. On a free kick, as is normal, people are jostling for position in the box. Click here to read the controversy and other game quotes.. Mullan, who says he was reacting to an elbow, seemed to be going down and wrapped an arm around big man Olaveís waist. Now, Olave is a big dude, youíd think that a little guy like Mullan would not be able to bring him down, but both men fell over. And if you look at it, at almost looks like Olave falls back onto Mullan on purpose. Either way, 9 times out of 10, that late in the game, scores being what they were, that would not get called. As Gary Smith said, given the circumstances, it would have been extremely unlikely for a ref to grant something so severe as a penalty kick so late in the game. Mullan would have needed to do something exceptionally bad for something like that to occur. And, to be honest, he didnít. The ref called an extremely soft at best and extremely questionable at worst penalty kick which Saborio predictably hammered into the back of the net.

Kreis himself said that he didnít think the ref would call the foul the way he did. He didnít even expect to win the game, and he shouldnít have. He shouldnít have even expected a draw. The saddest part, to me, is that Real get away with an extremely cheap draw. We saw no real soccer from them, none of the traditional flair and excitement that comes with many of the RSL games I have seen. Some RSL supporters may take comfort in that they still managed a draw, but they shouldnít. They may take this as more reason to brag, but they shouldnít.

The Rapids, on both occasions, have shown true quality against RSL, and shown RSL to be not the better team of the two, or the more passionate, or even the more skilled, but the luckier. And itís only a matter of time before Realís luck runs out. If there is any team that could almost certainly give Real a run for their money in the finals, it would be the Colorado Rapids. And I can almost guarantee that is the team Jason Kreis does not want to see in Toronto.

As a result of this, Colorado will play Columbus, and I canít wait to see that match up. Two very hard-working teams who are sure to produce good matches. Colorado will be looking to put this behind them so that they can lift the greater of the two trophies: the MLS Cup.

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