Jeff Larentowicz looked frustrated in the Colorado Rapids’ locker room, trying to break down exactly how his new team failed to capitalize on home advantage in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire.
After such a bright start on the road against Chivas USA last weekend, expectations were high for Colorado as it sought to go 2-0 for the first time ever in franchise history. With a good home crowd behind them and on a beautiful Rocky Mountain day perfect for soccer, the Rapids were unable to press through, twice losing the lead to end up with just the one point.
“Ending up with a draw at home—it’s not positive in the home opener,” Larentowicz said after the match. “I guess we have to get more creative with what we do. We seemed a little static. The coach asked us to do more at halftime and it just wasn’t enough.”
Fellow midfielder Pablo Mastroeni said it wasn’t the first time the team had lacked the creativity needed to secure three points. The team played more positively in the first half, but a slow second-half start allowed Chicago to get back into the game and put the Rapids on the back foot. From there, it was an uphill struggle.
“We got in a more defensive posture and went back on our heels,” Mastroeni said.
Chicago midfielders Logan Pause and Marco Pappa—who had been quiet in the first half—took charge in the second period, reducing the Rapids to making unlikely runs at the defense rather than patiently pinning passes together to create solid chances.
“We have to realize it was a slow start to the second half,” Mastroeni said. “It’s a mindset we create. We should be looking to go on and win 4-1 as opposed to holding on to a 2-1 victory. But we have to keep it in perspective—two games and four points, a win and a tie, is not the worst.”
Rapids Head coach Gary Smith largely echoed his players’ thoughts, pointing out that it was still very early in the season and that four points from two games isn't a bad start. He also noted how well the Chicago midfield played in the second half, giving credit to Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos for shifting things around and putting Pappa more in the center.
“He got his reward for it,” Smith said. “He put Pappa in the middle and you have to give the guy in there a bit of a pat on the back for the way he changed things.”
However, there was a sense of anti-climax after the buoyancy of the first game, Smith said.
“I just didn’t think we got out of first gear,” he said. “It was too flat, too slow. There wasn’t enough intensity.”
In the end the Rapids were undone by set pieces, but Smith—who praised Marvell Wynne to the hilt last weekend—said he had no regrets about playing the new signing in the middle of defense. Wynne tripped Patrick Nyarko in the penalty box that led to the second Chicago goal, and he was possibly at fault for the opening goal as Collins John got in for an easy header.
“Marvell was a little bit too aggressive to go and shut down Nyarko,” Smith said. “He forced the lad to shove it beyond him. But there were also two or three situations he did great on. That added pace and recovery he has is very important.”