COMMERCE CITY — The Colorado Rapids had the game sewn up.
After a second half full of prime scoring opportunities — and coming up empty on all of them — the Rapids finally broke through in the 87th minute. Midfielder Sam Cronin headed a pretty Marlon Hairston cross past Philadelphia Union keeper John McCarthy.
Cronin’s header gave Colorado a one-goal lead. All the Rapids had to do was keep Philadelphia scoreless for about five minutes, which seemed like an easy task with the way they’d defended up to that point. The Rapids couldn’t keep the Union from finding the back of the net, though.
Union midfielder Brian Carroll poked a high-arching ball past Rapids goalkeeper Sam MacMath in stoppage time, and Philadelphia (5-3-5) salvaged a 1-1 tie against Colorado (8-2-4) on Saturday night in Commerce City.
Here are three observations from the game:
The Rapids defended well… at least until stoppage time.
Here’s a stat that might make Rapids fans want to bang their heads against the wall: the Union recorded one shot on goal Saturday night. One! It, of course, was Carroll’s stoppage-time equalizer.
Carroll slipped got behind the Colorado defense and took advantage of a fortuitous bounce on a pass Cronin aptly described as a “long, hopeful ball.” Carroll buried it near post past MacMath. It was the only blemish of the night for Macmath and the Colorado defense.
“Obviously frustrating,” said Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni. “But that’s football. The game doesn’t give you anything. You have to concentrate until the last whistle. Just one play…. Give them credit. They pushed and fought. But it was obviously disappointing.”
Marlon Hairston gave Colorado good minutes.
Hairston substituted into Thursday’s game in the 61st minute for midfielder Dillon Serna. From jump street, the 22-year-old made his presence felt.
Hairston put pressure on the Union defense by pushing the ball up the field with his speed. He assisted Colorado’s lone goal of the night in the 70th minute. Hairston’s cross from the right side of the field that Cronin headed in was a thing of beauty.
It was also one of three chances created, according to the Rapids’ stats department, that he recorded on the night.
“I thought Marlon did great,” Cronin said. “He subbed on in Seattle and did well. In the game today, he was sharp and energetic. Obviously, the assist was a great ball. He had a long absence from his injury, but he’s been training well and doing everything he needs to in the gym to get back. He’s an important player for us.”
The Rapids didn’t take full advantage of their scoring opportunities.
One of the concerns entering Thursday’s game for Colorado was how it would generate scoring chances without Jermaine Jones and Shkelzen Gashi, who were on international duty. But the Rapids managed to create plenty of golden opportunities without two men who’ve combined for five goals and five assists this season.
Colorado’s problem was that it didn’t net enough of those chances.
The Rapids recorded 13 shots, including nine in the second half. They hit the crossbar three times. They even had a goal disallowed in the second half due to an offsides call. Chances were aplenty. But they settled for a draw instead of a win against a quality opponent.
Mastroeni and his players were disappointed with the result; they said as much in the postgame press conference. There’s a lot to like about what the Rapids have done so far this season if you zoom out a little bit, though. They’re still first in the Western Conference and lead the MLS in points.
“Unfortuantley we didn’t get the three points,” Mastroeni said. “You can look at it as a two-point loss or a one-point gain. I’m thinking about a two-point loss right now because I’m emotional, but I think tomorrow when I’m looking at some other results, it’ll be a one-point gain.”
Heading into an extended break because of Copa America, the Rapids are in a good place.