The Colorado Rapids traveled to Sandy, Utah on Saturday night facing a two-goal deficit in the Rocky Mountain Cup.
After going scoreless for nearly the entire match, the game changed when Kei Kamara was issued a straight red card in the 89th minute for a high, lunging tackle against RSL’s Brooks Lennon.
Two minutes later, the hosts appeared to notch a game-winner, but Damir Kreilach’s goal was ruled offside following video review. In the 95th minute, a handball in the box was called on Rapids defender Lalas Abubakar, and Joao Plata buried the effort despite Tim Howard getting a hand on the shot. Finally, Jefferson Savarino capped the match at 2-0 with his goal in the 99th minute.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake:
The last battle of the Titans
Saturday’s game marked the last time fans will see the faceoff between close friends and former bunk mates Nick Rimando and Tim Howard. Both are set to retire at the end of this season.
Rimando has proven to be arguably the best goalkeeper in MLS history with 220 wins and nearly 1,700 saves in his two decades in the league. Howard is also considered by many to be the greatest U.S. goalkeeper in history based on his longevity and performances with the U.S. Men’s National Team, including his 16-save performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.
Rimando shined brighter on Saturday with five saves to Howard’s four, including a back-to-back save effort in the 27th minute which kept the score 0-0.
Who’s your Unkel?
Rapids fans feel hard done by head referee Ted Unkel, and it’s true that Colorado was handed more yellow cards than the hosts.
But on the decisions that mattered – Kamara’s red, Abubakar’s yellow and the offside call on what looked to be the first RSL goal – the referees got it right.
Kamara’s challenge on Lennon was high and towards the knee area of the opponent. Similar to Nana Boateng’s Rocky Mountain Cup red card last season, it was a dangerous challenge.
Abubakar was also deserved of the handball call – his arm stuck out in an unnatural position while in the box.
“I’m happy with the way that they played,” Rapids interim head coach Conor Casey said of the players. “There was a lot of character and mentality tonight. Unfortunately, the last five minutes don’t go our way and we’re on the wrong end of the result.”
Casey’s last match in charge?
With the hiring of Robin Fraser as the Colorado Rapids next manager, Rapids fans have potentially seen their last match with Casey at the helm.
Casey brought back an attractive attacking style to the Rapids during his time in charge for Colorado, with little regard for defense. That being said, Colorado did manage to shore up some of the defensive issues the team experienced earlier in the season under Hudson
Casey has posted a 6-7-4 record as interim head coach and the Rapids have earned all their wins with the former Rapids’ striker at the helm.
It remains to be seen whether Casey (or any of the other Rapids assistants) will remain in the Fraser regime or ply their trade elsewhere, but Casey has put forth a strong showing of what kind of management abilities he can bring to a team this season.