Rapids convert red cards into three valuable road points

Colorado Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja returned to his old stomping grounds on Sunday and promptly found himself with the kind of advantage that practically demands three points.

During a two-minute span in the first half, FC Dallas’ Daniel Hernandez and Blas Pérez were each awarded red cards, leaving the home side with just nine men and giving the Rapids a golden chance to collect three badly needed points.

And despite their season-long struggle to score away from home, Colorado went out and capitalized on their man advantage, as Jaime Castrillón and Martín Rivero each scored in the second half to fuel a 2-0 victory.

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“We needed the result. It’s a team that worked hard in Boston that didn’t get a point there and they deserved it tonight,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com following the win. “It’s huge for the confidence and it puts us in a better position in the standings.”

In the 61st minute, after a seemingly continuous second-half offensive onslaught from the Rapids, the visitors finally cashed in with a pair of composed finishes.

Opta Chalkboard: Colorado dominate play with two-man advantage

After left back Luis Zapata’s cross into the box found an open Brian Mullan at the edge of the penalty box, Mullan patiently waited for Castrillón to make his run, and the former Dynamo midfielder calmly delivered a perfect cross for the Colombian, who easily headed home the opening tally.

Just 13 minutes later, Rivero made no mistake with another open look in the middle of the penalty box. The Argentine carefully picked out the bottom corner to ice the game and ensure the crucial three points for Pareja’s squad.

With the win, the Rapids snapped a four-game road losing streak and, most importantly, moved into sole possession of fifth place in the Western Conference, breaking a standings deadlock with FC Dallas. The dual red cards offered Colorado a chance to dominate possession – a hallmark of Pareja’s attack – and they turned that 65 percent advantage on the ball into two crucial goals.

But heading into Sunday’s win, the Rapids had scored just one goal in their previous three road games, and had struggled to generate significant chances on net in each of those games. It looked like it might be more of the same when Dallas managed to get to halftime without conceding.

“I told them [at the half] that we have to be patient and that Dallas is going to stay back,” Pareja said. “And the patience and intelligence came through.”

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Part of that can be attributed to the insertion of Conor Casey at halftime, his second appearance since returning from a ruptured Achilles last month. Casey provided an instant spark for the once-floundering Rapids attack as his presence opened up even more room for his teammates to prod holes in the Dallas defense.

And eventually, those holes were exploited, giving the Rapids three points to take back to Colorado.

“It’s been a challenge to integrate a lot of guys in the new system,” Casey told MLSsoccer.com after the win. “But tonight showed that we can be dangerous. It’s just everyday we’re trying to improve and we still have a lot of work to do, and it’s not a bad thing.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.