And so the first defeat of the season for the Colorado Rapids, a 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City. Of course, fans will take most defeats on the chin if deserving, but many supporters will have been floored by the manner of the reversal against the 2013 MLS Cup winners.
Sixty seconds. That’s all it took for Sporting KC to cancel out Vicente Sanchez’s game-leading penalty. Hardly enough time for fans to release each other from a celebratory embrace and re-take their seats. Barely time to bask in the glory of coming from behind to lead the defending champions. Just one minute passed before Benny Feilhaber landed the glancing blow which rocked the Rapids – 2-2.
Lengthy periods of domination rarely settle tight contests. Closely-fought games, as Saturday’s was, are usually determined by moments of madness, moments of magic, or a mixture of both.
Great work by the Rapids to get their noses in front, against a strong Sporting KC. But good sides are good sides because they never know when to quit. They don’t like losing and you should expect them to be straight back at you having just conceded. The reaction from Sporting KC seemed to take the Rapids completely by surprise. It's often said in soccer that you're at your most vulnerable in the moments after scoring a goal. Re-focus, regain your shape and concentrate. That didn't happen on this occasion.
For much of the match, the Rapids were again defensively assured and – had they taken their golden opportunities in the first half – then arguably we’d be discussing a different outcome. As it was, a clearly struggling Marc Burch was stretched for the first SKC goal – moments before he departed injured – concentration levels were lacking for the second, and the shuffling of the pack in the wake of Marvell Wynne’s dismissal led to a breakdown for the third.
And yet, even at 2-2, the Rapids appeared the more positive. If a side were to snatch a winner, then you’d have thought it would be the home team, on the balance of play in the latter stages.
But when Wynne walked, all thoughts of a second successive victory slipped away and were replaced by the desperate desire to cling on for a point. That, too dissolved, in the dying seconds of the contest. Dwyer was afforded too much space in the box, and duly punished the Rapids with a decisive strike.
Coaches prefer to reflect on what happened in the match, as opposed to what might have been, but one can’t help feeling that poor finishing hurt the side at the weekend. Despite what my wife may say, I do listen, and I hear those suggesting five goals as a result of five penalties is what you get from applying pressure on the opposition in the danger areas. I get that.
But, of the two pk’s on Saturday, I’m still scratching my head over the first one. Handball? A wayward boot? What was it given for? Harsh, I’d say. There was no doubt about the second decision. Shane O’Neill was dragged to the floor. It was a clear penalty.
And, believe me, if the Rapids are currently enjoying a cozy relationship with Lady Luck, then long may that continue. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, as the saying goes. Goals are goals, however they arrive, but beating the best in MLS requires you to take every chance (and sometimes half-chance) which falls your way.
Although early on in the season, and against a strong opposition, that defeat will have hurt. The Rapids will be minus at least one player for the Vancouver trip (Wynne is suspended). At the time of writing I’d not heard whether Edson Buddle or Sanchez would be tried on turf, or whether Burch would be fit to travel.
The Rapids’ ability was questioned at the start of the season, with many wondering how they’d fare under a new coach. Despite the loss last weekend, I believe they’ve silenced many of the doom-merchants. But now there’s a new question. Losses are a part of sport. The key is how you deal with defeat. How will the Rapids react, and how much will that tell us of the possibilities which lie ahead?