Colorado fought back to a 2-2 draw on Saturday night inside Rio Tinto Stadium in the final leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup against Real Salt Lake. Striker Diego Rubio recorded his second penalty goal of the season, and defender Lalas Abubakar found the equalizer in the rivalry match.
Despite the resilient second-half comeback, RSL will retain the Cup for the second year based on the result and even amount of points earned between the sides over the course of the series.
"Really good example of the character of the team to go down two goals and to fight back and give ourselves a chance to win the game, I thought it was really fantastic," said head coach Robin Fraser postgame. "In the end, it's certainly not the result we want it but it was nice to see that sort of resiliency. And the message was we need to see that every game and if we eliminate the mistakes and we play with that sort of intensity, we'll certainly give ourselves the best possible chance."
The Rapids’ returning winger Sam Nicholson made his mark on the match with multiple attacking chances in the box. The Bristol Rovers transfer almost found the back of the net in his first game back in burgundy in the 22nd minute when Jonathan Lewis sent a low drive onto the near post from the left side, but was blocked by former Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
Neither side crossed the goal line until stoppage time of the first half. RSL took to the board first after Jefferson Savarino sent a low, far-post shot that just evaded William Yarbrough’s fingertips.
"The discussion at halftime was we felt like we had the better of the play," said Fraser. "We felt like we created some good chances. Just because we've given up a goal, don't get away from what we do and continue to be disciplined. And we really saw that discipline and the sort of intensity that you need to to compete and win big games."
RSL doubled their lead early in the second half when a free kick taken outside of the box hit the crossbar and Justin Meram found the second ball on a diving header.
Colorado took one back in the 67th minute after Michael Barrios was fouled in the box, earning the Rapids a penalty kick opportunity. Rubio stepped up the spot and nailed the ball into the lower right corner as MacMath dove in the opposite direction.
The PK conversion marked Rubio’s second of the season and eighth total goal of 2022.
Lalas Abubakar recorded his second goal in as many games on Saturday night, closing out the rivalry match with an 89th-minute volley. Forward Gyasi Zardes took his chances on a header from a Bryan Acosta cross into the box, but the off-target opportunity found itself at the feet of Abubakar, who neatly tucked the ball into the far corner of the goal.
His right-footed strike was a mirror-image of his goal scored against Austin FC on Monday night, and marks his second equalizing goal against RSL this year after leveling the score in the first leg of the Cup in April at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park.
Despite not recovering the Cup, Colorado’s resilient comeback draw marks a turning point for the squad’s season.
"We have massive character," said Nicholson. "I know results haven't been going our away, but we just proved exactly that we're doing our best to turn it around and we will, we'll turn it around."