Commerce City, Colo. — Did Real Salt Lake finally exorcise the road demons that have plagued the club for much of the season?
It certainly looks as if Salt Lake has turned a corner as it hits the road to face the Colorado Rapids at 7 p.m. CT Saturday in the final leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup. RSL got a badly needed result away from home when it took down Houston 2-1 last Saturday — a win that came in the most dramatic and unlikely fashion.
RSL entered second-half stoppage time trailing 1-0. Three minutes later, Albert Rusniak pinged a ball off the post to level the match three. Then seven minutes later, Rusniak netted the game-winning penalty kick.
He was the first player MLS history to score an equalizer and game winner during stoppage time in the same match.
“I’m over the moon right now,” RSL coach Mike Petke told reporters after the match. “It wasn’t an easy game. From the beginning, we took control. ... It clicked as far as specifics that we wanted from our players, how we wanted to defend, where we wanted them to play the ball and capitalized in transition. I’m ecstatic for them to be honest with you.”
It marked just the second road win for Salt Lake (11-10-5, 38 points) this season. It also gave RSL some valuable momentum heading into Colorado.
The Rapids, on the other hand, are sputtering again. After seemingly turning the page with back-to-back wins, they are now winless in their last two matches. Colorado never threatened in a 2-0 loss to Los Angeles FC on Sunday, yielding goals in the fourth minute and 80th minutes.
Now focus has turned to denying Salt Lake from claiming a third straight Rocky Mountain Cup.
“This is such an important game for us, we know how important it is for our fans, to the club, we know what that means to everyone. We’re clear on that,” Rapids coach Anthony Hudson told reporters after Sunday’s match. “We also want to put Sunday behind us and I can assure you we absolutely cannot wait for this game.”
Colorado (6-13-6, 24 points) earned a shot to claim the cup after rallying to force a 2-2 draw in Utah on July 21. The Rapids fell behind 2-0 early in the first half, but gradually turned momentum in their favor after a restart following a lengthy lightning delay.
—Field Level Media