Rapids fans will have to wait another year to hoist the RMC.
Saturday night had a chance to be fun. At the very least, I assume most fans thought an RSL side that’s struggled on the road would provide the Rapids a half-decent chance to chase the four-goal win they needed to reclaim the Rocky Mountain Cup for Centennial 38. It was not to be. Visions of an emphatic win and ensuing celebration went out the window and did so quickly. Before fans could settle down Salt Lake had the lead, and just moments later the Rapids were playing a man down. A dream start it was not.
"I'm disappointed and it's something that we have to learn from very quickly," Hudson said. "We only had nine men. There's not a lot of takeaways from that other than the discipline side of it. There is and has been a good feeling in the group. Everyone’s working incredibly well and performances reflect that. It's just one of those night’s we have to put behind us."
Derby games matches are tight. They’re emotional. Often, they hinge on a split-second moment or decision. In the April meeting between these two, the bang-bang handball that saw captain Tim Howard sent off changed the trajectory of the match – and the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cup. In July, Dillon Serna’s instinctive near-post rocket to tie the match in the dying minutes rewarded the Rapids with a much-deserved draw on the road. Saturday night, well, let’s just say it was a decision that Niki Jackson won’t soon forget that turned the tide.
These Rocky Mountain Cup matches are always full of drama. There’s usually a penalty or two and more than a few cards handed out. On Sunday morning, fans of the Rapids will only see the drubbing at the hands of their biggest rival, but they should know that this three-legged series could just have easily turned in their favor. They should also know that this is a result that will stay with the players until next season.
"This is something we're going to remember, because when this comes around next season we'll be in a different place," Hudson said.
Two of the three Rocky Mountain Cup games are scheduled to be played in Colorado next season. Alongside the goal of a 2019 Playoff berth, those dates should be circled as ‘must-win’ games.
Three home games remain.
To close out the 2018 campaign, Anthony Hudson’s side will have three chances to entertain the burgundy and blue faithful on home soil. On the opposing side? Three top quality playoff-bound teams featuring some of the best in MLS. The Rapids' Starting XI that take the field on those occasions should expect to take points in each of those games. More importantly, they should relish the chance to inform two MLS newcomers that road trips to Denver are seldom easy.
Aside from first-ever visits to DICK’S Sporting Goods Park from LAFC and Atlanta United, here are a few other storylines worth monitoring in those final three home games.
- Kortne Ford – and hopefully a healthy Axel Sjöberg – facing off with new MLS goal king Josef Martinez.
- The moment Homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett becomes the youngest player to feature for the Rapids at age 17.
- Kellyn Acosta’s continued brilliance and re-emergence in the conversation as a starter for the USMNT.
- The MLS Best XI worthy performances – and spectacular long-range goals – from Edgar Castillo.
- Jack Price’s quest to hit 100% success rate on his passes for an entire game (don’t put it past him).
- The chance to close out the season on a high note against longtime rival FC Dallas.