Rookie forward Fabrice Nöel netted his first career goal to give the Rapids the three points and their first piece of hardware in the Fernando Clavijo era.
(Read C10's official Rocky Mountain Cup year-in-review of the competition by CLICKING HERE.)
A cross by Terry Cooke in the starting minutes of the match created the first scoring opportunity of the game for the Black and Blue. Jean Philippe Peguero met the cross in the heart of the home team’s penalty area but his powerful header sailed over the crossbar of Real Salt Lake’s goal.
Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon who returned to the starting lineup after sitting out five games with an abdominal strain was tested by the home team in the 38th minute of the first half. Cannon came quickly off his line to close the shooting angle on an onrushing Melvin Tarley whose close range shot was deflected by the Rapids goalkeeper’s left foot.
Only one minute later a seemingly easy shot from Kenny Cutler was deflected by the Rapids defense forcing Cannon to redirect his body and come up with a spectacular save.
Former Rapids player Seth Trembly volleyed a shot over Cannon in the 49th minute but saw the ball fly over the crossbar and away from danger.
Clint Mathis came close to scoring in the 51st minute when he faced Cannon on a one-on-one situation. The Rapids keeper kicked the ball away from Mathis but was unable to secure the rebound. The loose ball was kicked by Tarley towards an open net but he was denied by defender Ritchie Kotschau who cleared the ball from the goalline to maintain the 0-0 tie.
Jeff Cunningham’s shot in the 83rd minute came close to target but went inches over the crossbar of goalkeeper D.J. Countess’ goal. Cunningham had collected a ball inside Real’s penalty area before unleashing a powerful right shot that was carefully watched by Countess as it flew over his goal.
Missing from the Rapids midfield was explosive newcomer Dedi Ben-Dayan whose absence from tonight’s match exemplifies an interesting side note about the diversity of the sport of soccer. Ben-Dayan who practices Judaism missed tonight’s Rapids regular-season finale as he observed Yom Kippur. The Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur is considered to be the most important of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work fast and/or attend synagogue services on this day. The 2005 Yom Kippur holiday starts at sunset on Wednesday October 12th and will end at nightfall on October 13th 2005.
As the final minutes wound down Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo made three attacking substitions bringing on Noel Cunningham and rookie Sasha Gotsmanov and the visitors began to pile on the pressure.
The deciding play of the game came in the 87th minute when Cunningham feed a through ball to an onrushing Nöel. Cunningham held the ball at the top of the penalty area just long enough for Noel to get around his marker and then he dropped a softly weighted ball behind the Real defense for Noel. The 20-year old Haitian dribbled his way past the first RSL defender while speeding towards goal before unleashing a well-placed shot past a diving Countess to give the Rapids the victory and the Rocky Mountain Cup trophy which will now remain in Denver with the fans of the Rapids through the 2006 season.
The victory brought the Rapids level with the Los Angeles Galaxy -- for the moment -- for third place in the Western Conference though the Galaxy still have their season finale to play Saturday evening at home against the San Jose Earthquakes.If the Quakes win the Rapids can secure the #3 seed in the East meaning they would match up against FC Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
After the match Cunningham along with his teammates were presented the Rocky Mountain Cup by supporters from both teams who organized the competition. When he received the trophy Cunningham ran over to the RSL supporters corner to remind them what they could have had.
"Whenever you win a trophy it's a great feeling said Cunningham. "The fans that were here to help support us in this it was great to see them on the pitch with us tonight."
The Rocky Mountain Cup was organized by a group of fans called C10 from both Real Salt Lake and the Rapids. The supporters from both teams organized fundraisers and raised money to have a cup custom-made in Scotland and presented to the fans of the team which has a better head-to-head record during the regular season.
The victory Wednesday gave the Rapids a 3-1 advantage in the season series and the right to hold the Rocky Mountain Cup over the duration of next season.
An excited Jason Maxwell the lead organizer for the Rapids supporters in C10 shared in the joy of the Rapids' first trophy along with the other Colorado supporters who made the trip to Salt Lake.
"It was great said Maxwell. "We were nervous all game and then Fabrice scored that goal and we knew it was over."
Next up for the Rapids: Colorado will host the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Saturday October 22nd at 7:00 p.m. (MT) at INVESCO Field at Mile High. Playoff tickets are on sale now. The Black and Blue are also offering the "Rapids Youth Night Special" presented by Fat City where kids 16 & under get a free playoff ticket with the purchase of an adult playoff ticket as well as 2 free coupons to Fat City. Fans can reserve their Playoff Tickets or the Rapids Youth Night Special by calling the Rapids Ticket Hotline at (303) 825-GOAL.
The Rocky Mountain Cup trophy is expected to be on hand at the Rapids' home playoff game for fans to pose with and take photos of!
Colorado Rapids (13-13-6) vs. Real Salt Lake (5-22-5)
October 12 2005 -- Rice-Eccles Stadium
COL -- Fabrice Noel 1 (Jeff Cunningham 3) 87'
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon Hunter Freeman Nat Borchers Mike Petke Ritchie Kotschau Kyle Beckerman Terry Cooke (Sasha Gotsmanov 69) Alain Nkong (Fabrice Noel 72) Eric Denton Jean Philippe Peguero (Jeff Cunningham 56) Jovan Kirovski.
Substitutes Not Used: Leo Cullen Byron Foss
Real Salt Lake -- D.J. Countess Chris Brown Brian Dunseth Nelson Akwari Kevin Novak (Leslie Fitzpatrick 87) Kenny Cutler Brian Kamler (Robert Scarlett 56) Seth Trembly Andy Williams Clint Mathis Melvin Tarley (Jamie Watson 73).
Substitutes Not Used: Jordan Cila Adolfo Gregorio Cameron Knowles Luke Kreamalmeyer Jay Nolly Dante Washington
RSL -- Seth Trembly (caution; Pushing Holding) 43'
COL -- Jovan Kirovski (caution; Tackle from Behind) 46'
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: David Bragg; Anthony Vasoli
4th official: Feliciano Palomino
Time of game: 1:49
Weather: Clear -and- 65 degrees