Almost 18,000 fans rocked Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, creating a very special atmosphere.
They sat, transfixed, as a dramatic second half unfolded, laden with four goals in a head-spinning ten minute spell.
The 2-2 draw against Western Conference leaders FC Dallas extended Colorado Rapids’ unbeaten run to six matches, and again indicated that this team can compete with any in MLS.
Indeed, were it not for smart, instinctive finishing from Blas Perez – aided by a little luck and a lapse in concentration – then the Rapids, courtesy of two goals from Atiba Harris, would’ve walked away with all three points.
They led twice, and conceded soon after on both occasions. That element will hurt, as hanging on to leads has been an issue for the Rapids this term.
In their five tied games, the Rapids have held the initiative in all of them, including a 2-0 advantage at home to Portland.
So, in a sense, that’s 10 points dropped, though one can never look at it collectively. At Real Salt Lake and Houston, the side soaked up a lot of pressure before succumbing.
Highlights: COL 2, DAL 2
On the recent trip to San Jose, the Rapids were arguably the better side, and thumped two chances against the woodwork when 1-0 up, in a 1-1 tie.
And we’re aware of the Portland comeback, as well as the most recent draw with Dallas.
Pick out of that what you will, but I’ll say this, whenever your lead is by the one goal, there’s always a chance the opposition will hit back. And so it’s proved.
There’s a need to kill teams off, as New England Revolution did so ruthlessly against LA Galaxy this past weekend (5 shots on target in a 5-0 victory).
Saturday was an exception, but too often this season, the Rapids have got their noses in front, had further chances to extend that lead, only to miss out and let the oppo back in.
One thing that did annoy me on Saturday was the referee’s inability to tell a strong, fair challenge from a rash, dangerous foul.
Hendry Thomas rarely pretends to hide his game. His game is not always pretty, but it is usually effective. He’s the spoiler. He’s the man who lets the ‘fancy Dans’ know they’re in a scrap.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a flair player lighting up a contest. The creative wizards casting their soccer spells are what have you out of your seat … but I do love a crunching, well-timed tackle. And Thomas delivered two of those early on against FC Dallas.
In the ref’s defense, everything happened so quickly, and players these days – even the biggest blokes – would have us think that the slightest breeze would have them a little unsteady on their log-like legs. Bambi they are not, but you’d be hard-pushed to think otherwise the way they go to ground.
So, two perfectly legal, perfectly executed bids for the ball. The ball, as replays showed, was won cleanly. Contact was made with the Dallas player, but after the ball was won. It was a case of two players going for the same ball, and one being stronger than the other.
Moments later, Thomas then thundered into the back of David Ferreira – rashly – but you sensed this was partly due to frustration, having been called (and almost cautioned) for two fair challenges.
It happened later in the game as well. Zach Lloyd and Deshorn Brown came together. Lloyd wanted the ball, and he got it. The fact that Brown came off worse in the challenge doesn’t mean that any foul was committed.
Referees have a responsibility to protect players. They also need to be mindful that soccer is a contact sport. Creativity should never be stifled, but neither should the physical aspect of the game. Firm but fair is always ok in my book.