Colorado Rapids 1- NYCFC 1
Colorado Rapids hosted New York City FC on Saturday night in the Rapids first home game following a four match road trip.
That four away game span wasn’t kind to the Rapids whose year long struggles continued against Portland, Salt Lake and LA, resulting in three losses before Colorado nabbed their first road win of the season against Houston Dynamo.
New York comes off a loss against Portland but was boosted by the news that MLS MVP David Villa was back on the bench after missing time through injury with an abductor strain.
City FC came out sharp using controlled short passing down the right wing and around the edge of the Colorado box to find space behind the Rapid back line. The second place team in the East were quick to establish dominance in possession and Colorado, as is their style, were happy to sit back and defend.
In the 13th minute, against the run of play, Josh Gatt was able to drive into NYCFC territory before finding Dominique Badji. Badji used his pace to dribble through three New York defenders and was able to get a shot off on goal, but Sean Johnson saved the effort.
Colorado was uninterested in coming out of their own half anytime they weren’t in possession throughout the first half.
In the 19th minute New York took the lead through Thomas McNamara. The play started out fairly inconspicuously with New York probing through Colorado’s left flank but McNamara found himself on the ball in acres of space and after picking up his head, realizing that no Rapids were going to close him down, fired a long shot from 35 yards out. The shot was a hard driven rocket and though Tim Howard dove to save the shot, it nestled in the top right corner of the Rapids goal to give New York a 1-0 lead.
In the 23rd minute Andrea Pirlo nearly doubled New York’s lead when he stepped up to take a free kick just outside the Rapid box after a Michael Azira foul. Pirlo sent a hard curling effort in on goal and beat the diving form of Tim Howard but saw his shot slam across the Colorado crossbar. The shot cannoned back out into the box before being cleared and the Rapids were lucky not to be down by two before the half hour mark in the match.
Colorado did better as the end of the first half approached, coming out of their half to press and winning several corner kicks, though NYC did well to defend against Colorado’s set pieces.
In the 40th minute Marlon Hairston found room on the right wing following a Rapid counter attack and drove a shot on Johnson’s goal from just outside the box. The shot looked destined for the top right side of the New York goal, but Johnson rose well to get a hand on the shot and touch it over the bar.
At halftime New York lead 1-0.
Colorado appeared more adventurous in the second half, but without some of their best players, Gashi, Aigner and Doyle on the pitch, it was difficult to threaten New York.
In the 54th minute Ben Sweat nearly scored for New York. After some clever short passing in the Rapids left corner Sweat was played through cleanly into the Rapid box and tried to curl a shot hard and low past Tim Howard. Howard was equal to the shot but the rebound came off Howard’s chest right back into Sweat’s path. Sweat tried to poke the ball past Howard again but the US Men’s International got his big left palm to the ball to push it out wide.
Colorado’s newest player, Stefan Aigner, came on in the 65th minute along with Shkelzen Gashi. Aigner did well in the Rapids last match, assisting on Dominique Badji’s last gasp goal in Colorado’s win over Houston Dynamo. Mohammed Saeid and Joshua Gatt came off in the exchange.
David Villa came on in the 72nd minute, his first action since missing time with an Abductor strain following duty with the Spanish National Team.
Alan Gordon came on for Marlon Hairston in the 75th minute.
The Rapids should have leveled the match in the 84th minute. A Michael Azira pass from the Rapid midfield was cleverly flicked on into the box by Jared Watts and found the feet of Alan Gordon who was in free and clear. Gordon shot on goal, to the bottom left corner from the penalty spot but the effort banged off the feet of Johnson, who had dove the wrong way, and out. The chance will haunt Gordon’s dreams for years to come. He should have scored and the match should have been level in the 84th minute.
Colorado did find their leveler in 88th minute when Dominique Badji found the back of the net for the 8th time in 2017. Badji found space in the left channel of midfield and once again used his pace to bear down on Sean Johnson’s goal. Badji had Alan Gordon and Stefan Aigner running along side him, ready for the lay off but the Senegalese forward took on the shot himself, cutting it low and across Johnson to the bottom right corner of goal. Johnson got a hand on the shot and should have pushed it wide, but the ball seemed to take an awkward hop just before Johnson could save it and Badji wheeled away in celebration.
The late goal was Badji’s second last gasp strike in as many matches and it was enough for the Rapids to earn a 1-1 draw against one of the best teams in MLS.
“We have to be more ruthless in front of goal and be more ruthless in the last thirty to forty yards.” Lamented Patrick Viera following the match, “I think as a team, we give away goals that we shouldn’t if we want to compete in a higher level. We make too many mistakes as a team and we have to resolve those problems if we want to keep second place.”
NYCFC will face Houston Dynamo in New York next weekend while the Rapids will once again go on the road to face Vancouver Whitecaps.