Gutsy Colorado Rapids ground out a valuable point in their MLS opener at Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
Pablo Mastroeni’s side were up against it for much of the game, especially in the final 20 minutes after Bobby Burling was dismissed, but they rolled up their sleeves and clung on to a tie.
This was not a great spectacle but sometimes soccer is like that. What Rapids may have lacked in finesse and attacking invention they more than made up for in organization and spirit.
That bodes well for the season ahead.
We had been waiting for this season opener all winter but, in the early stages, both sides played as if struggling to shake off the effects of hibernation. Chances were few; it was sleepy stuff.
The Union were the better side and were most creative down their left flank where Raymon Gaddis and Andrew Wenger combined to great effect.
In the 21st minute, the latter nearly broke the deadlock by drifting an effort against the bar. That came shortly after Maurice Edu fired over from Wenger’s pacy corner.
Rapids were resilient and forceful. According to the referee sometimes overly so; both center backs would be booked in the first 45 minutes.
As the half went on, Rapids became more offensive however their delivery into the area sometimes failed to live up to their build up play. The best chance of the half came when Union keeper Rais M’bolhi hurriedly punched clear from a Vicente Sanchez corner.
In the final minute, the hosts could have gone ahead when Sebastien Le Toux drove into the area. But Clint Irwin came out to make a fine save with his feet. It was the first of a couple of crucial saves from the keeper.
The home side went looking for goals at the start of the second half – and nearly found one. Le Toux and substitute Cristian Maidana both fired low drives beyond the far post.
Rapids responded by battling their way into the game. Dominique Badji fired wide and they were just starting to string some passes together going forward when they were reduced to ten men.
Burling hauled down Le Toux as he broke through midfield and was shown his second yellow.
Mastroeni soon swapped Shane O’Neill for Torres to shore up the defense. But the tone was set, Rapids would be on the back foot for the rest of the game.
The Union brought on Conor Casey in the final stages to press their case. The former Rapids center forward would have a couple of headers that could have won the game.
The first was repelled by a superb reaction save from Clint Irwin. The second slid by the post in injury time.
This point was not pretty but it was priceless.
Now for New York City on March 21 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (TICKETS).
Philadelphia Union 0-0 Colorado Rapids
PPL Park, Chester, PA
Scoring Summary: None
Philadelphia Union: Rais Mbolhi, Sheanon Williams, Steven Vitoria, Ethan White, Raymon Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira (Zach Pfeffer 85′), Sebastien Le Toux (Conor Casey 85′), Andrew Wenger, CJ Sapong (Cristian Maidana 45′), Fernando Aristeguieta.
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Richie Marquez, Michael Lahoud, Fabinho.
Colorado Rapids: Clint Irwin, James Riley, Bobby Burling, Axel Sjoberg, Michael Harrington, Marcelo Sarvas, Lucas Pittinari, Vicente Sanchez (Dillon Powers 55′), Dillon Serna, Gabriel Torres (Shane O’Neill 74′), Dominque Badji (Deshorn Brown 88′).
Unused Subs: John Berner, Marc Burch, Sam Cronin, Carlos Alvarez.
COL: Bobby Burling (foul) - 24
PHI: Steven Vitoria (foul) - 25
COL: Axel Sjoberg (foul) - 45
COL: Bobby Burling (foul) - 68
COL: Dillon Serna (foul) - 73
PHI: Fernando Aristeguieta (unsporting behavior) - 90+7
COL: Lucas Pittinari (foul) - 90+7