By: Jae Groll

The defending MLS Cup champions showed they still have the  never say die mettle that saw them through the playoffs last year. In the final game of the 2010 regular season Saturday evening, RSL snatched a 2-2 draw from the rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Colorado came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Blasting shot after shot towards the RSL goal and broke the ice on 17′ with a bouncing volley from Omar Cummings that slipped under RSL keeper Nick Rimando.

Once again RSL found themselves down early and struggled to respond. As the Rapids continued to dominate possession throughout the first half RSL looked lethargic and failed to consistently link up through midfield. Pablo Mastroeni and company thoroughly keeping Javi Morales clamped down and Kyle Beckerman too busy defending to really make an impact offensively.[picappgallerysingle id=”9974941″]

As the first half wore down RSL did create a couple of quality chances. Robbie Findley taking a 1-2 from Beckerman but his near post shot was wide.

Alvaro Saborio had the best chance of the first half in stoppage time. From a right side corner Nat Borchers headed the ball back to Saborio point blank on Colorado keeper Matt Pickens, but his soft header was straight at the goalie and he saved it easily.

The second half was almost a mirror image of the first with the Rapids once again scoring early on 50′ when Conor Casey out fought Jamison Olave on a nice far post cross from Kosuke Kimura to give Colorado a 2-0 lead.[picappgallerysingle id=”9974958″]

As the half wore on RSL showed no signs of being able to close the gap let alone equalize. Then, inexplicably, as the clock struck 90′ it all came crashing down for the home side.

It started with what should have been a simple clearance by Pickens. With Saborio, still giving it his all, closing in, Pickens casually tried to make the routine play but the RSL talisman was too quick. The ball took a wicked ricochet off Saborio and high into the air directly back to the Rapids goal.

As the ball came down it struck the crossbar and left the diving Pickens in a heap at the back of the net. Saborio, all alone in front of goal slammed home the first for the visitors.

Three minutes of stoppage time was signaled by the 4th official and the improbable goal gave RSL the life to fight for the whole 180 seconds.

Deep into the allotted time, second half substitute Paulo Araujo Jr. earned a free kick 45 yards out on the left angle. The ensuing kick was lofted far post into the box and Drew Moor pulled down Olave in the box for the yellow card and the PK.

Saborio left no doubt as he sent Pickens the wrong way and easily captured his brace.

The comeback was truly a shocker for the home fans who just minutes before were proudly hoisting the Rocky Mountain Cup secure in the knowledge that it would be staying in Colorado for the first time in 3 years.

Jason Kreis’ team finishes the 2010 regular season as their finest ever. Setting club records for goals scored, 45, fewest goals conceded, 20, and an unbeaten home record. RSL also set MLS League records for fewest goals allowed, 20, beating the old record of 23 and goal differential, +25.

The result keeps hope alive for RSL securing the MLS Supporters Shield as well. A win from Dallas FC at the La Galaxy on Sunday would mean that RSL and the Galaxy would be tied on points with RSL owning the tie breaker.

What a fantastic way for RSL to end a regular season to remember. But now the slate is wiped clean. MLS Cup playoffs loom and the specter of RSL’s first game which will be at Dallas ( a place where RSL have never secured even a single point) is leering from Texas.

Man of the Match: Without a doubt, Alvaro Saborio. The RSL striker was denied any good service for most of the match so he took things into his own hands, or feet I should say. His effort to close down Pickens on a routine clearance that turned into the first goal and his aplomb in taking a highly pressurized penalty, against a keeper who has not given up a penalty goal this season, were the stuff of legends.

Play of the match: Chris Wingert, with Nick Rimando completely out of position on 75 minutes and only himself standing between Brian Mullan and Colorado’s 3rd goal, the RSL defender wisely put his arms to his side and managed to block the sure goal with his chest. That play would end up being decisive by the end of the match.

Moment of Blush: Colorado Rapids fans hoisting and posing for pictures with the Rocky Mountain Cup well before the fat lady had sung. RSL win their 4th consecutive Rocky Mountain Cup in dramatic fashion on away goals. Leaving the home crowd, as one RSL message board poster so eloquently put it, “Rick Rolled”.

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