Saturday’s loss in Salt Lake City was a microcosm of the Rapids season in 2017-started out with promise, ran into difficulty, spiraled downward. Colorado came out of the gate with an attacking lineup and put high pressure on RSL almost immediately courtesy of a Kevin Doyle flick-on header and a Dominic Badji shot inside the penalty area.
“I think we were really doing well,” Head Coach Steve Cooke said postgame. “We created a couple of good openings early in the game and we always looked dangerous on the break.”
However, as the first half wore on, Colorado became increasingly defensive on the back foot as RSL started to break through lines with their attackers Albert Rusnak, Joel Plata, and Luis Silva. “The first goal changes the game completely,” Cooke explained in regards to what could have been for the Rapids. “Mo Saeid got the ball, I think if that released a little bit sooner, they nick the ball, they go straight to goal in about 5 seconds what it probably was by the ball hitting the net.”
RSL pounced on their opportunity as Plata raced inside the box with Eric Miller on his hip but the low shot snuck inside Tim Howard’s near post for the lead just before halftime.
“These moments are the ones that change games and we keep saying it as coaches but you’ve got to be aware of those moments-move that ball quickly, cleanly in that counter-attack and we’ve got a chance at scoring a goal and instead we go 1-nil down.”
“Not only do (RSL) attack quickly but they attack with great quality and I think that matters,” explained Cooke, who is still looking for his first win as the head of the Colorado locker room. “At the moment I think they’re the form team in MLS. We probably struggled to contain the four strikers they had playing. They were always going to be dangerous on the counter-attack and in the end I think that’s what got us running out of a bit of steam.”
“I have a good feeling because we have two or three good chances but at the end we make a stupid mistake in the midfield,” Colorado forward Shkelzen Gashi told The Voice of C38 postmatch. “We lost the ball and they countered very fast. It was 1-0 but we played good-these situations, one stupid mistake can happen.”
The second half saw Colorado slide further down soon after the whistle as Mekeil Williams brought down in the penalty area and Silva converted in just the minute. “When I see the first half, without the mistake we played good,” explained Gashi. “For them the second goal was perfect. We came out with a big effort but then the second goal is coming so fast. This is soccer. We have to learn about these mistakes.”
From there, the match turned a bit ugly both in the play on the field and the scoreboard for the good-sized contingent of Rapids fans, mostly C38 supporters, in attendance. From 2 yellow cards expelling Alan Gordon, a straight red for RSL’s Danilo Acosta for a harsh tackle on Marlon Hairston, to 2 more goals late in stoppage time as Colorado pushed up strongmen Axel Sjoberg and Miller to try and equalize after Joshua Gatt’s header was ruled a good goal according to VR. The match certainly finished up with a flurry of activity, but ultimately the Rocky Mountain Cup stays in Utah for another year.
“I just want to say to the fans thank you for coming here and thank you for the support,” Gashi expressed almost immediately after starting this interview. “It was amazing. We really appreciate that and we have to do much better than tonight.”