COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (August 17, 2011) — The Colorado Rapids twice came from behind in their CONCACAF Champions League debut to grab a dramatic 3-2 victory over 10-man Isidro Metapán of El Salvador.
Macoumba Kandji, making his first start in his first game since MLS Cup 2010, emerged as the hero, scoring a brace and creating Andre Akpan’s winning goal.
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The game could not have started more dramatically. With barely 15 seconds on the clock, Metapán forward Cristian Bautista was pulled down by Drew Moor in the penalty area. The penalty was duly converted by Allan Kardeck to give Metapán and their numerous fans a shock lead.
Los Caleros’ lead, however, was short-lived. In the 16th minute, Kandji marked his return with a header to tie things up. Left completely unmarked just yards from the goal, the lanky striker turned in Scott Pagulta’s cross.
Kandji’s goal lit a fire under the Salvadoran club, and barely nine minutes later, Metapán icon Paolo Suárez put his team back on top. Rapids goalie Matt Pickens, who had just been upended in the penalty box, carelessly threw the ball towards Kosuke Kimura. The Japanese right back was not ready to receive the ball, which was pinched by an alert Suárez. The Uruguayan then chipped the sphere over Pickens and into the empty net.
With a handful of minutes left in the first half, the visitors went down to 10 men when Kardeck was sent off for a a stray arm into Moor’s face as the striker chased ball. The Rapids took advantage of their extra man and right before halftime, Kandji struck again, bundling the ball in from close range to level things once more.
Kandji’s second tally seemed to calm some Rapids’ nerves after a helter-skelter first 45 minutes. The goal, coupled with the man advantage, give Colorado a big boost of energy heading into the second stanza.
Just five minutes into the second half, Kandji and Wells Thompson combined well before Thompson dialed a ball into Akpan, who shot crisply into the net with his left foot to give the Rapids the lead for the first time in the match.
Metapán, apart from some pressure in the last few minutes, found it difficult to create many chances as the Rapids increasingly found spaces behind the Salvador team’s defensive line.
Quincy Amarikwa, a second-half substitute for Sanna Nyassi, had a golden chance to stretch the Rapids’ lead early on in the second period when he found himself alone on goal, but he could not control Thompsons’ cross.
Thompson himself also had a great chance in the 73rd minute after a perfect through ball from Akpan, but his shot was saved by ‘keeper Miguel Montes.
The win gives the Rapids three points and has them tied for the Group B lead with Mexican side Santos Laguna, who defeated Honduras’ Real España 3-2.
Colorado return to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday for an MLS game against Chivas USA. Their next CCL game is on Tuesday, when they travel to face Real España.