The editorial staff at MLSsoccer.com is looking back over the year with our "Best of 2010" awards, running Dec. 13 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award from a variety of categories culled from the storylines of Major League Soccer and the North American soccer scene.
This time we're looking back at a wild year for the Rocky Mountain Cup, which saw Real Salt Lake rally for late draws in both matches against the Colorado Rapids and hang onto the hardware for another year, earning our Comeback of the Year.
For a good solid hour there on Sept. 25, it looked like Real Salt Lake’s record home winning streak was about to come to an end. And the fact that it was to do so at the hands of their hated rivals, the Colorado Rapids, promised for one of the gloomiest nights in the brief history of Rio Tinto Stadium.
Conor Casey had given Colorado the lead on a clinical header near the end of the first half and the Rapids held on for dear life afterward, keeping the 1-0 scoreline despite a relentless RSL attack.
That attack finally seemed to pay off when the home team was awarded a penalty in the 87th minute. But referee Ramon Hernandez, after consulting with his linesman, controversially -- and correctly, it must be said -- changed his ruling and called for a drop ball instead.
But, well, this was Rio Tinto, and RSL don’t lose there.
Deep into second-half stoppage time and just seconds before the final whistle Nat Borchers got his head to a long-ball from Andy Williams [WATCH] and found the back of the net for the dramatic equalizer. A stunned Rapids side vowed revenge in the return date scheduled for Commerce City just a month later.
[inline_node:321634]That game proved just as exciting. This time Colorado gave themselves a 2-0 lead on goals from Casey and Omar Cummings, and once again brought it into stoppage time. Once again, they’d walk away with one point instead of three.
Both goals came courtesy of Alvaro Saborio, the first when Rapids’ keeper Matt Pickens took too long to launch a clearance upfield [WATCH], giving Saborio time to close him down. The ball deflected off the Costa Rican striker, bounced off the crossbar and eventually found Saborio’s foot. He obliged by tapping it into the empty net.
Soon after, Saborio was the man again, this time in a more conventional manner. He coolly slotted home a penalty in the third minute of stoppage [WATCH], giving RSL the most unlikely comeback of the year, and adding another level of intrigue to the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Second place: C.F. Monterrey breaks Seattle hearts (Sept. 22)
This one hurt. A Seattle team made up mostly of reserves surprisingly took a 2-0 lead at Monterrey (who would go on to win the Apertura) and held it into the 74th minute. Then Humberto Suazo came in and turned the match on its ear, inspiring the Rayados to three unanswered for the 3-2 win and keeping MLS teams winless in Mexico.
Third place: USA comes back from two down to draw Slovenia (June 18)
One of the truly nightmarish first halves in US soccer history was followed by quite possibly the most spectacular second. Two bad, early goals gave the Yanks a 2-0 deficit at halftime, but they managed to equalize dramatically through Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley in a second half they’d dominated. Only a controversial whistle from ref Koman Coulibaly kept the US from snatching a 3-2 win.
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