Defense resilient as injury-struck Rapids battle to tie
The Colorado Rapids built further on the midweek victory over the Houston Dynamo with a hard-fought road point against the New England Revolution on Saturday night.
The Rapids sucked up an enormous amount of pressure, especially in the second half, when they could barely get a shot on goal. Outstanding defense and a bit of luck -- the Revolution twice hit the crossbar -- saw the Rapids through to a scoreless draw.
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After the match, Rapids’ head coach Gary Smith said he was delighted with the result given all the injury problems his team has faced and the physical toll that three matches in a week have taken on the team. To add to Colorado’s injury woes, striker Caleb Folan, who started for the first time since April 22 because of injury problems, limped off with a groin problem after half an hour of play.
“We’ve gone through a couple of time zones and our rotation has been affected by all the injuries,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “I am extremely proud of the way the players conducted themselves tonight.”
Smith felt the match against New England was more even in the first half, when the Rapids were able to create their best chances of the night.
Andre Akpan, who came on for Folan, proved consistently dangerous in those final 15 minutes of the first stanza. The young forward created a number of opportunities, including a 32nd-minute long-range strike that forced a save from Revs ‘keeper Matt Reis.
While the first 45 were more balanced, the second half proved much more of an uphill struggle for Colorado. Jamie Smith, who entered as a second-half substitute, had the best chance for the Rapids right at the death, when he carved out an opening and unleashed left-footed shot from distance that sailed just over the crossbar.
With not much going on offensive, it was the Rapids’ defensive effort that proved decisive. Goalie Matt Pickens came up big on a couple of occasions -- including a save on a point-blank header from New England's Shalrie Joseph in the second half -- and center back Tyrone Marshall proved a late hero, saving an almost certain goal with a sliding stop from on a Sainey Nyassi cross in stoppage time.
“We are a little bit under a cloud right now with all the injuries and we just have to pick up additional points when we can,” Smith said. “This was a very good point. They are showing the type of resilience you can expect from a team that can achieve something.”
The Rapids return to Colorado to train next week before traveling back to the East Coast for to take on D.C. United May 14.
“If we can just keep adding points to the board, we will be good. Those [injured players] will be back and we’ll be in a good position, and all the better for it,” said Smith. “All and all, it’s a clean sheet [at New England]. It’s three unbeaten, it’s another point to the tally, and it’s the end of a very, very long week. We’ll all be very pleased to get back home.”