The Colorado Rapids ground out a precious point at Columbus on Saturday to maintain their lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
Cedric Mabwati capped an eye-catching first-half performance to fire the home side into the lead in the 23rd minute. But the Rapids responded before the hour when Kevin Doyle lost his marker to guide home a header from Shkëlzen Gashi’s pinpoint corner.
Both sides had chances to win the game but the draw was probably fair. The two teams had endured a taxing week - the Rapids on the pitch, Columbus off it - so they seemed content to settle for a point
Pablo Mastroeni’s men are now 7-2-3 and unbeaten in their last seven games. Columbus are 2-4-4.
The Rapids started brightly. They paid heed to Mastroeni’s advice to press early and that impetus saw Gashi’s free kick pushed aside by keeper Steve Clark.
Then the Albanian found Jermaine Jones on the left and his swirling cross was missed by Clark. Fortunately for him it bounced back off the woodwork.
But the home side had chances too. Harrison Afful had fired wide in the opening minutes and, midway through the half, the same player collected Higuain’s pass at the far post but Zac MacMath stood his ground to block.
Columbus were gradually getting on top with Mabwati causing major problems down the left. In the 25th minute he escaped down the left and found Afful. The midfielder returned the ball back for the winger to fire high into the net.
At the break, the home side had the lead.
The Rapids were invigorated after the restart and found an equalizer after 55 minutes when Doyle glanced home a header from an excellent corner by Gashi.
Columbus nearly retook the lead immediately when MacMath spilled the ball and Ola Kamara collected. The keeper and his defense combined to snuff out the shot.
The game would swing to one team and then the other after that. The introduction of Ethan Finlay stretched the Rapids at the back but the excellent Axel Sjoberg mopped up on the few occasions Marc Burch could not prevent the cross coming in.
Gashi got a sight of goal after Burch lofted through a pass but the effort was smothered. Then Doyle had a dig from distance and Clark could only palm the ball out to Gashi. However the keeper recovered well to block the attacker’s follow up.
When MacMath clutched a late header from Kamara from Afful the game was up.
Another solid road point for the Rapids.
The Rapids showed two changes from the side that had beaten Sporting KC on Wednesday. Gashi had recovered from sickness and replaced Dom Badji while Jared Watts came in for Bobby Burling, who had been suffering with a sore neck. Columbus were missing last season’s top scorer Kei Kamara, who had been traded to New England Revolution following an altercation with teammate Federico Higuain last weekend.
Columbus Crew SC 1-1 Colorado Rapids
May 14, 2016 – MAPFRE Stadium
CLB: Cedrick 23’ (Afful)
COL: Kevin Doyle 55’ (Gashi)
COL: Kevin Doyle (caution) 10’
COL: Shkëlzen Gashi (caution) 63’
Columbus Crew SC: 2-4-4 (10 points)
Colorado Rapids: 7-2-3 (24 points)
Columbus Crew SC: Steve Clark, Corey Ashe, Gaston Sauro, Michael Parkhurst, Harrison Afful, Wil Trapp, Mohammed Saeid, Federico HIguain, Cedrick (Ethan Finley 60’), Justin Meram (Emil Larsen 79’), Ola Kamara..
Subs not used: Brad Stuver, Waylon Francis, Hector Jimenez, Rodrigo Saravia, Conor Casey.
Colorado Rapids: Zac MacMath, Mekeil Williams, Jared Watts, Axel Sjöberg, Marc Burch (Marlon Hairston 87’), Micheal Azira, Sam Cronin, Jermaine Jones (Dillon Powers 79’), Luis Solignac, Shkëlzen Gashi, Kevin Doyle.
Subs not used: Chris Froschauer, Dennis Castillo, Dillon Serna, Dominique Badji, Conor Doyle.