By Chris Brown
The Colorado Rapids welcomed Ignacio Piatti and Montreal Impact to Commerce City for a Saturday night matchup on the last night of September.
Colorado are firmly rooted to the bottom of both the Western Conference and Supporter’s Shield standings with no hope of making the playoffs while Montreal are one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot in the late stages of the season.
Coming into Saturday night’s matchup Montreal were on the outside of the playoffs looking in, sitting on 39 points, just 4 points behind New York Red Bulls who occupy the final Eastern Conference spot. If the Impact want to make the 2017 playoffs, a win against the hapless Rapids is a must, even if the match is on the road.
The Rapids are without striker Kevin Doyle who retired earlier in the week after the Irish International revealed that frequent concussions had effectively ended his career, continuing to play could have dire consequences to his long term health.
Stefan Aigner earned his first home start for the Rapids but instead of playing on the wing, as Aigner has done since joining Colorado, the German was played centrally in the number ten role.
The Impact applied pressure on Colorado from the opening whistle. Laurent Ciman had an early chance in the 5th minute, after a cross found Ciman completely unguarded at the far post, but Ciman’s header was well wide of the target.
In the 9th minute Jared Watts slid with his spikes exposed and made contact with Chris Duvall’s lower leg. The tackle looked rough and the referee reached for his yellow card before pausing and reviewing the tackle via the recently implemented replay system. After reviewing the tackle the referee showed Watts a straight red card, reducing Colorado to ten men with 80 minutes left to play.
After Watts was dismissed Montreal predictably dominated play as the Rapids were forced to sit deep and try to find any kind of attacking threat through counter attacks.
In the 32nd minute, almost unbelievably, the match was leveled to ten men a piece. After Daniel Lovitz and Mike DeFonte collided in the air over a 50/50 header, DeFonte was left on the turf. Lovitz got up and while he was walking past DeFonte, planted his right knee into DeFone’s upper ribs, underneath the armpit, as the Rapid defender was on all fours on the ground. The knee wasn’t terribly hard or violent, but it was obvious and the referee didn’t hesitate to show his red card for a second time, just over half an hour into the match. It was a stupid deision from Lovitz, especially with the significance of the match.
In the first half stoppage time Colorado took the lead through Stefan Aigner. Mekeil Williams sent in a cross from space on the left wing after Marlon Hairston did well to draw two defenders into the Impact corner. The cross found Stefan Aigner between two Impact defenders and Aigner did well to adjust to the ball, which was slightly behind him, and headed it past Evan Bush to the bottom right corner of the Montreal goal. The goal was reviewed because there was a chance Aigner was offside, but the goal stood.
At halftime Colorado led 1-0.
Shortly after the break Ignacio Piatti drew a penalty kick after Marlon Hairston tried to tackle Piatti, who was in on goal, from behind. Hairston dove across Piatti and though he appeared to get part of the ball, the penalty was given. After two or three minutes of confusion, the referee went to VAR to determine if it was a penalty of not. After the referee reviewed the video he decided it was not a penalty and Colorado was lucky to escape the 54th minute still in the lead.
In the 62nd minute Montreal found an equalizer and it was an absolute stunner. Matteo Mancosu received a pass about five yards outside of the Rapids goal box and turned to goal. Both of the Rapids center backs stood frozen instead of closing Mancosu down and he punished them for it by lashing a shot that was hit with terrific pace and just enough drift that the diving form of Tim Howard had no chance of getting a finger to it before it hit the back of the net in the upper right hand corner of goal, leveling the match and 1-1.
Just minutes later Tim Howard was forced to save from point blank range after Anthony Jackson-Hamel, just in as a sub, was passed in on Tim Howard. The goal seemed to galvanize the Impact and Colorado was on the ropes.
Around the 70th minute the match opened up and the two sides took turns forcing saves from the other team’s keeper. Piatti looked dangerous for Montreal while Dominique Badji, surging with his new found confidence, was a fit for the Impact defenders to handle as theirs legs grew heavier.
In the 81st minute Alan Gordon, who came on for Stefan Aigner, put Colorado back in front. Mekeil Williams sent Dominque Badji down the left wing and Badji played a inch perfect cross in to Alan Gordon, who had a simple tap in to restore the Rapids lead late in the match.
Both sides exhausted their subs, and after late injuries, both teams were forced to finish the match with nine men.
At the final whistle the match ended 2-1 to Colorado.
For Montreal, the lose is a heavy blow to their playoff hopes. The Impact will have two weeks off before facing Toronto FC on October 15th. Toronto clichéd the Supporter’s Shield early on Saturday.
For Colorado, the win moves the Rapids off the very bottom of the league standings, pending on how LA would fare later in the evening.