Rio Tinto Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Colorado Rapids. In their 12th try in rival Real Salt Lake’s home, Colorado lost 2-1 in a game that could have been much worse than that.
Things appeared to be on the up and up in this game, with the away team seemingly poised for a breakthrough with a shocking early goal in the 5th minute.
After managing the game to perfection in the first 35; covering spaces well defensively, getting forward in a hurry with quick touches and trying to get vertical and not just wide, while also allowing the home team more possession, Colorado seemed poised to hold onto the lead. The Rapids managed the lead nicely until the tight marking down the flank started to open up.
RSL was able to break through the Colorado defense with a wonderful pass from the right flank by Juan Manuel Martinez (known as 'Burrito') who found Joao Plata on the opposite side of the box. Eric Miller had a brief moment where he could have stretched out and affected the pass but was unable to. Plata calmly got forward and passed the ball to Yura Movsisyan who had his first of two goals and would be a terror for the Rapids defense the rest of the game.
With the things all tied in the 39th minute, the Rapids seemed to lose all their mojo. Defensively they never closed the spaces back up, while the attack and midfield started to get more and more disconnected. All of a sudden the strategy to allow RSL to hold possession seemed to backfire, as Colorado seldom managed to get back on the ball and create any danger.
The second half started off with promise, with Marco Pappa managing a nice shot from outside the box that Nick Rimando handled like a vet. Shortly after that came the gut punch from the home team. Joao Plata winded dangerously down the left wing but merely passed it off centrally to Movsisyan at the top of the box, who, frankly, seemed well-covered. Movsisyan took the little space he had and made magic with it. A quick fake opened up just the sliver of space that his phenomenal left shot need, a cross body blast that left his foot and was in the back of the net within milliseconds.
The game risked falling off a cliff for Colorado in the 57th minute when Marc Burch got called for a foul on Movsisyan in the box giving RSL a penalty. Who else if not Movsisyan would take it, only to amazingly get saved by Tim Howard and tipped wide left.
The RSL star striker would also hit the post shortly thereafter just to ensure Rapids fans had nightmares of him tonight.
The Rapids made some changes and tried to get something going, but play offensively was stagnant. Attempts at quick passes turned into turnovers, any push on the wing seemed completely absent, while possession at midfield was nonexistent.
After such a promising start, which came from quick passing and playing ruthlessly in space, the Rapids seemed lost and played one of the worst half’s of their season in the last 45’. RSL kept pushing for the third score and came close several times, including yet another penalty kick. Eric Miller was the offender this time with the foul on Burrito in the box, Javier Morales went to take it and got stopped by an outstanding Tim Howard save, the play of the game for Colorado.
The Rapids star keeper was one of the few players with a great game, as he had to make several tough saves and avoided the third goal for his team on a few occasions.
The game was very exciting with several big chances and exciting moments. But as the game went on those chance were limited to RSL's side. To make matters worse, Salt Lake has now tied up Colorado at 43 points in the standings for second place in the Western Conference. Marlon Hairston was also out for an undisclosed injury, denying the away team of one of their most dangerous attackers.
In the first game of a three-game road trip, the Rapids just made life harder on themselves.