Commerce City, Colo. • Nick Rimando refused to see his team lose again.
For a third straight game, Real Salt Lake watched a second-half lead evaporate Saturday night. But after suffering back-to-back heartbreakers with backup keeper Jeff Attinella in goal, Rimando marked his return to the club after a monthlong absence with a series of reflex saves to stave off a late onslaught by the Colorado Rapids, preserving a 2-2 draw.
After pushing a ball off the line earlier in the second half, Rimando closed out the match by making two saves on a pair of long Tony Cascio shots, stopping a deflection from RSL defender Brandon McDonald, and stonewalling Colorado’s Shane O’Neill.
“Stunning, absolutely stunning,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said of Rimando. “He continues what I think is easily, hands down the best year of his entire playing career. Without Nick Rimando in that game, I think we lose it.”
With the tie, RSL concluded its regular-season series against the Rapids with a loss and a pair of draws, relinquishing control of the Rocky Mountain Cup for the first time since 2006.
But RSL salvaged a point on the road against a Colorado team that has surged up the Western Conference standings in recent weeks. RSL now sits four points clear of the Rapids in the West.
“We got out of sorts in the second half. It wasn’t as organized as I’d like us to be and as sharp as I’d like us to be on set pieces and throw-ins,” Rimando said. “But we got a result and that’s what matters. Yes, we didn’t win the Rocky Mountain Cup, and that means a lot to the fans, but we got a result.”
RSL shocked the crowd in Commerce City when Kyle Beckerman crossed a ball through the 6-yard box to an unmarked Ned Grabavoy in the second minute of play.
But the Rapids answered almost immediately.
After a Salt Lake corner kick was headed over the crossbar, Irwin’s quick restart had the Rapids Deshorn Brown racing down the field, splitting the RSL center backs and poking the ball past goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who had come off his line to help corral the rookie speedster.
In the 20th minute, RSL forward Robbie Findley was tackled in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. But before Alvaro Saborio could take the penalty kick, the referee suspended the game due to lightning.
After an hourlong delay, Saborio stepped up to the spot and beat Colorado’s Clint Irwin, who saved a Saborio PK in the team’s last meeting, for the go-ahead goal.
“It’s difficult to wait because you have a lot of thoughts,” Saborio said. “A lot of thinking about where you have to take the penalty or what they think, what they’re watching.”
But once again, Colorado had an answer.
Jaime Castrillon headed home a Chris Klute cross in the 70th minute to level the game at 2 goals apiece.
RSL 2, Rapids 2
R Nick Rimando makes four saves from the 83rd to 87th minute to preserve a draw.