Weary legs leave Rapids stuck with another draw

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - The fatigue brought on by a tough May schedule may have finally caught up with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, as they endured another frustrating night in a 1-1 draw with visiting Sporting Kansas City.

The Rapids are unbeaten in their last seven games, but have just one win to show for the streak, which has included four matches away from the comforts of home.

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Colorado got an early goal from Conor Casey and had a seemingly sure-fire chance to extend the lead in the 63rd minute, but midfielder Jeff Larentowicz skied a shot over the bar from close to the penalty spot with just Jimmy Nielsen in the Sporting goal to beat.

Ryan Smith made the Rapids pay with a left-footed blast from the edge of the penalty box for the equalizer in the 75th minute.

“For whatever reason, we just can’t get that final nail in the coffin,” Rapids head coach Gary Smith said. “I think today’s game was pretty much overshadowed for all of us by the fatigue the team has endured in the last week. You can see that in the group.”

One positive for the club is a more regular schedule upcoming in June, with four games over the four weekends. Ross LaBauex, who got his second straight start tonight in a withdrawn forward/advanced midfielder role, said it will be an opportunity for the team to regroup a little and try and get back to winning ways.

“It will give us more time to rest, get off the legs a bit, do some things in the treatment room, in the weight room,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We are getting points, that’s the biggest thing. There’s still plenty of opportunities for us to get back where we want to be.”

Larentowicz added it will be good to have a more regular schedule, but warned about the toughness of the games coming up.  The June schedule includes home games against Eastern Conference frontrunners Philadelphia and Western leaders LA, as well as away games at Portland and Columbus.

 “I wasn’t trying to look past this game tonight,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “June will be back to normal, I guess you could say, but they are four difficult games. Once you are in them, you are not really thinking about fatigue. You just think about the team in front of you.”

The Rapids also suffered two more injuries on Saturday. Defender Marvell Wynne’s hamstring tightened up and the Rapids were forced to play a man down for the last 10 minutes of the game, and  Joseph Nane, who had only been on the field for about 10 minutes as a second half substitute, left with a dislocated right shoulder.

Striker Caleb Folan made a return to the side in the 73rd minute, however, after being out since May 7 with a groin injury.

Smith said he hoped the more relaxed June schedule would coincide with some key players coming back.

“We are a very fine line at the moment from winning games,” he said. “The fact that we stay unbeaten is always good. When I’ve got a few bodies back, and it was great to see Caleb out there tonight, the addition of Jamie (Smith) and Brian (Mullan) when he’s back and one or two of the younger guys to add a bit of strength and depth to the group will be good news and much needed.”