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Real Salt Lake draw first blood in Rocky Mountain Cup, beating Colorado Rapids

Albert Rusnák, Corey Baird and Sam Johnson scored for Real Salt Lake, which defeated the Colorado Rapids 3-2

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In their first rivalry meeting of 2019, the Colorado Rapids hosted Real Salt Lake as both teams looked to stake their claim at the Rocky Mountain Cup.

Having signed three new players this week, two of whom gained the starting nod in midfielder Jonathan Lewis and centerback Lalas Abubakar, the Rapids looked to end a seven-match losing streak while still seeking their first win of the season.

Despite Colorado’s efforts to come back from a two-goal deficit to level the match, RSL pulled out the 3-2 win on a second-half goal from Sam Johnson to leave Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with all three points.

“My head’s pounding and I’ll appreciate it tomorrow if I’ve got a voice,” RSL head coach Mike Petke said. “These rivalry games, it’s always a tough game. We controlled the game the first 30-35 minutes and to concede the goal, that was tough to take.”

The Rapids, meanwhile, dropped their eighth in a row and second straight under interim manager Conor Casey.

“I just wanted to start and say the fans were unbelievable tonight, the atmosphere in the stadium, it’s been one of the best atmospheres that we’ve had all year,” Casey said. “We started slow, unfortunately we’ve gone down 2-0 in the last two games, but the character of the group to come back once again and even the score, they never gave up on each other. We’re all very disappointed, there’s no question about it. The group knows it is moving in the right direction. We didn’t get the result we wanted tonight, but there was a lot of good, positive things to take away from tonight.”

Early in the match, Real Salt Lake (4-6-1, 13 points) built up a 2-0 lead in the first half on the back of goals from Albert Rusnak and Corey Baird.

After Sebastian Saucedo failed to draw a penalty decision after contact with Rapids defensive midfielder Danny Wilson early in the match, Saucedo was again clipped by Rapids defender Seb Anderson in the 22nd minute, prompting video review. Referee Robert Sibiga awarded a penalty and Rusnák buried it to put RSL up 1-0 in the 25th minute.

On the ensuing restart, RSL midfielder Nick Besler sent in a long ball for Baird, who calmly collected it in Colorado’s box, finishing past Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard to double Real Salt Lake’s lead in the 27th minute.

Colorado (0-9-2, 2 points) pulled back a goal in first half stoppage time with Lewis streaking down the right side of Colorado’s defense, sending in a dangerous cross which ricocheted out to Kellyn Acosta, who drew the Rapids within 2-1 by halftime.

The Rapids then leveled at the start of the second half. On a corner kick opportunity, Rapids midfielder Jack Price found Sam Nicholson, whose header deflected off the near post out to Wilson, who leveled the match with his goal in the 47th minute.

“Obviously, it’s nice to score a goal, but that’s about it because we’ve been defeated again,” said Wilson. “It’s frustration. Absolute frustration because the run that we’ve been on is unacceptable.”

Six minutes later, RSL retook the lead. Damir Kreilach’s dribble at the endline found Sam Johnson outside the Rapids’ six-yard-box and the Designated Player scored to put RSL ahead 3-2 in the 53rd minute.

Colorado again had an opportunity to equalize with a penalty conceded by RSL defender Donny Toia in the 59th minute. But Rapids forward Kei Kamara’s attempt was saved by RSL ‘keeper Andrew Putna, standing in for the injured Nick Rimando.

May 11, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; General view of a banner photo of Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara (23) (not pictured) hanging outside of Dicks Sporting Goods Park before the match against Real Salt Lake. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

 The Rapids again found an opportunity from the run of play when Kamara put in a dangerous shot from the right side of the box, but Putna again came up big with a save.

RSL likewise had a prime opportunity in the 73rd minute, but Joao Plata’s effort deflected off the post.

Colorado continued to push for an equalizer, but a penalty shout was waived off following video review in the 90th minute and what looked like a goal from Abubakar in extra time was called offside.

Having ended a two-game home stand without points, Colorado now takes to the road to face LA Galaxy next Sunday (8 p.m. EDT) while RSL returns to Rio Tinto to host Toronto FC next Saturday (3 pm. EDT).

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