View from the Booth: Rapids keep raising the bar
Seven games unbeaten have produced 15 points from a possible 21. The most recent of those games, a 2-2 tie at home to Real Salt Lake, brought the Rapids their first piece of silverware for the season with the return of the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup - and still we're not entirely satisfied.
During this great run, there was the frustration of a 0-0 draw at home to DC United, as well as the point acquired from the RSL encounter. On both occasions the man-of-the-match was the opposition's goalkeeper. Nick Rimando was in sensational form for RSL, denying the Rapids time and again with some top-class saves. Before him, it was Joe Willis who kept the Rapids to a tie.
Denied all three points. Deserved all three points. Expected all three points.
Full Match Highlights
And that's the shift in mind-set with this group. The bar has been raised. A point no longer good enough against the leaders of the Western Conference. These sets of players, marshalled with ever-increasing confidence by canny coach Oscar Pareja, are mixing it with the best in MLS.
Don't get me wrong, they, the technical staff and the fans will have been ecstatic to secure the return of the Rocky Mountain Cup, for the first time since 2006. But both Drew Moor and Pareja, in their post-match comments, were clear in that they felt the Rapids ought to have bagged the maximum.
Seven games unbeaten, in the thick of the playoff places, and still they wanted more. That should strike a positive chord with Rapids fans everywhere.
Sadly, though, it was another sluggish start at home which left them playing catch-up. Ned Grabavoy was afforded space at the back post, left unchecked and allowed the easiest of tap-ins after just 77 seconds!
Agreed, the Rapids responded superbly. Deshorn Brown's pace, once again, got the better of RSL's sluggish back line for the leveller. His was a quality finish, displaying composure and upper-body strength to slam home his sixth of the season.
Alvaro Saborio then beat Clint Irwin from the spot, after a 62 minute adverse weather delay, before Jaime Castrillon got on the end of another fine Chris Klute cross for the Rapids' second equalizer. Whilst all that was going on, Edson Buddle, Castrillon, Tony Cascio and Shane O'Neill were all superbly denied by the heroics of Rimando.
This makes the arrival of Vicente Sanchez all the more exciting. Here is an instinctive finisher, who may just provide the kick-on needed in the latter stages of the regular season.
Oscar Pareja Post-Game
There were times on Saturday when it was evident that this was more than just 'another' MLS fixture. Take, for example, Javier Morales goading Irwin after Saborio edged RSL back in front from the penalty spot. Players should not raise their arms against an opponent, and Irwin escaped with a yellow card, but the actions of Morales were needless. He may just reflect on that moment, which lacked any class whatsoever, and wonder whether his subsequent tumble to the ground had anything to do with the injury which, moments later, led to him being substituted.
Morales, your team had just scored, so rather than get in the face of the opposition 'keeper, how about you congratulate your teammate, take the applause of your fantastic travelling faithful and get back into position for the re-start. Nobody likes to see a player leave the field injured but - on this occasion - it was avoidable and, in the main, of your own making.
It was great to see Nathan Sturgis shoulder the midfield responsibility, in the absence of Hendry Thomas. He could be seen barking orders in the heat of battle. Another indication of how he’s clearly comfortable in Colorado colors.
We've come to expect it, but I'll highlight it anyway … the performance of Dillon Powers. His growing reputation in MLS has led to closer attention from opposition players. What I like about his game, apart from his strength, bravery, vision and dogged determination, is his demeanour. Kyle Beckerman offered him 'special attention' but, no matter what treatment was dished out, Powers took it. No reaction. No retaliation. Cool, calm and assured. This lad is good.
My closing comments this week will be to simply pour praise on the Rapids fans. Your players did you proud on Saturday, but your performance was outstanding. From the moment you traipsed into the stadium - singing and cheering (as I was live on Altitude trying my best not to mess up another link to a commercial break!) - through the weather delay, the torrential downpour and the heart-in-the-mouth moments, you played your part in what was an historic night for your club. I stood there and spoke about the 'ugly' weather, from the relative comfort of my booth. You guys were out there, taking a pasting from Mother Nature, yet still giving your all for the team. Top show.