Colorado extend unbeaten streak to five after draw

Head coach Smith disappointed they could not hold a 2-1 lead

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The Colorado Rapids continued where they left off before the World Cup break by stretching their unbeaten league run to five games. Nonetheless, there will still be some disappointment, as they couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead against Houston on the road when they surrendered an 80th minute equalizer.

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Gary Smith, head coach of the Rapids, had expressed some concern the two-and-half-week break from MLS action had left some of his players a little rusty. It did maybe show on a few occasions, especially in the first half when the Rapids found it difficult to string passes together and create decent chances.

“The point is tinged with a bit of frustration having had the lead but this is an extremely difficult place to come with 95 degree heat and humidity and I think it was fair for both sides in the end,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We restricted them to very little and it’s pleasing to come away from home and do that.”

On a day when the US’ dream at the World Cup ended, one of the players originally tipped to be in South Africa put his name on the score sheet for the Rapids.

Conor Casey scored his 35th goal as a Rapid and his sixth of the season right at the end of the first half. After Mehdi Ballouchy did well to dispossess the Houston midfield, the Moroccan passed to Casey, who expertly dummied and rounded Houston goalkeeper Pat Onstad before calmly slotting the ball into the Houston net.

Casey’s goal pulled the Rapids even after Houston had taken the lead on a Danny Cruz goal from long range.

Though the Rapids started a bit askew, some fluency emerged in the second half and more chances were created. Ballouchy had a golden opportunity in the 67th minute after a nice offensive move, but the midfielder hesitated fatally and the chance was lost.

Later on in the complementary period, a scrappy goal listed as an own goal stretched the Rapids’ lead, but the Houston equalizer dimmed hopes of another road win for Colorado. Nevertheless, Smith was content with the point gained on the road, especially because the team doesn’t have a good record in Houston.

Many players were exhausted at the end of the game given the World Cup break and then playing in such humid conditions, he said. He particularly praised Matt Pickens for a spectacular save in the 58th minute and Casey for his coolness in front of goal.

“Conor showed a huge amount of composure in front of goal.” Smith said. “He could have been forgiven for not taking that extra touch and he picked his spot very nicely. The goal gave us a great lift coming in at halftime.”

The Rapids return to the more friendly confines of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to take on the New York Red Bulls next Sunday for the traditional Independence Day extravaganza. The game kicks off at 9pm ET.

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