By Paul Fritz
Commerce City, CO –The last place Colorado Rapids hosted the Chicago Fire Wednesday night in desperate search for some change of fortune since not sealing a single victory since April 14th against Toronto FC. After coming out hot early, the Rapids could not hold their lead against the Chicago Fire and eventually had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
The Rapids showed improvement in front of goal as they scored two goals within the first 15 minutes. The hot start was remarkable considering they have managed to score twice in just 1 of their last 9 matches. In the 7th minute, Rapids left-back Edgar Castillo charged the offense up the field, leading to a pass to Tommy Smith, who found #14 Dominique Badji inside the box. Badji proved why he is the sparkplug for the Colorado attack as he cut inside to beat the defender and grounded a shot past Chicago keeper Richard Sanchez. Badji remains the lead goal-scorer for Colorado with 6 goals on the season.
Their second goal came in the 15th minute on a perfectly placed cross by midfielder Jack Price, who found an open Tommy Smith for a solid header into the back of the net. When asked about his first goal in Major League Soccer, Smith said “I pride myself on getting a few goals a season so to get my first was a proud moment and to be honest I couldn’t really see it because it came right out of the sun but I knew Price put it into a good area, and that close to the goal you can’t really miss”. Their overall improvement was apparent in that they actually passed successfully and maintained composure in front of goal.
However, to the dismay of the Colorado faithful, the sudden burst of form wouldn’t last long. In the 21st minute, Chicago’s #10 Aleksander Katai made a move past the defender, then crossed the ball into the danger-zone where Rapids defender Danny Wilson could not control the clearance and chipped it into his own goal. Soon after, the Rapids lead left as fast as it came as Katai lofted a beauty of a shot off his left foot that curled up and over the Colorado keeper Tim Howard. Fans who left for a simple bathroom break must have been dumbfounded upon seeing the scoreboard and realizing the Rapids had spoiled a two-goal lead.
In the 84th minute, German legend Bastian Schweinsteiger was sent off after being shown his second yellow of the game for unsporting behavior. With Chicago forced down to just 10 men on the field, the Rapids found a couple legitimate chances during extra time. The most promising chance for a game-winner came off the foot of substitute #10 Joe Mason, who found space inside the box but couldn’t quite slip the ball past the Chicago keeper. There was not enough extra time, in the end, for the Rapids to pull off a last minute winner.
Regarding the draw, Rapids Head Coach Anthony Hudson viewed the overall performance as an improvement for his squad and has a positive outlook heading into their ten-day break. Hudson said, “The most important thing after the run we’ve had is that we didn’t lose. So we’ve stopped the bleeding and also we probably did enough in the end to get three points”.
Much like many results so far in this adverse season for the Rapids, if a couple balls bounced their way or if they were just slightly more disciplined on defense, they could have sealed a sure victory tonight. Despite leaving with only one point, Hudson shed light on their goals for the rest of the season. “I say this a lot because it is the reality, but we are a team very much in transition and we have to get our squad settled and keep improving it. If we can do that bit by bit; we have the transfer window coming up and we know exactly what we need to do with the team to improve”, said Hudson.
Colorado will remain at home for their next game against Minnesota United on Saturday, June 23rd. The Chicago Fire will pick it up again next Wednesday against Atlanta United in the U.S Open Cup Round of 16.