Colorado Rapids' Oscar Pareja slams "unacceptable" penalty call in draw with Portland Timbers

Oscar Pareja, Colorado Rapids head coach

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Lady luck has not been on the side of the Colorado Rapids so far this season. Whether it's the slew of injuries or now, as the Rapids feel, a bad call on a game-tying penalty kick, they have plenty of reason to be frustrated after picking up just two points in their first five games of 2013.

In Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, off a corner kick, Rapids forward Atiba Harris reached across Timbers defender David Horst with his leg and appeared to hit Horst in the chest, leading to referee Drew Fischer’s decision to award the Timbers a penalty. Will Johnson converted to even the score at two goals apiece in the 70th minute, completing a Portland comeback from 2-0 down.

Unprovoked, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja slammed Fischer’s call in his postgame press conference, labeling the decision as “unacceptable” and “soft.”

“I’ve got to make this very clear: The penalty was very soft,” said Pareja, who said he had watched a replay of the call before the press conference. “It was not PK. I’m not happy with it. I thought we had to make that clear because they came up here with a play that is unacceptable.”

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Other players echoed Pareja’s sentiment.

“I think it’s a very doubtful penalty,” Rapids midfielder and team captain Hendry Thomas, who converted a penalty of his own, told MLSsoccer.com. “I thought our [48th-minute] penalty was very clear, theirs was not. It’s difficult when you tie a game like that.”

The penalty is the latest in a string of unfortunate events for the 0-3-2 Rapids. Missing seven starters due to injury and having only 19 healthy players on their active roster on Saturday, Colorado have endured a difficult start to their 2013 season.

But even with the questionable penalty call and injuries in mind, the team knows that it must work to overcome adversity to begin to crawl its way out of the Western Conference basement.

“The referee doesn’t kick the ball in the goal, so we can’t have any excuses for the referee seeing a foul,” goalkeeper Clint Irwin told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s his job, he made the call and we have to live with it.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.