Colorado Rapids fail to find their rhythm early, leading to another loss at Sporting Kansas City

As soon as Graham Zusi’s go-ahead goal hit the back of the net, Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin screamed and threw his arm in frustration, a microcosm for what was a long night in Kansas City.

In the Rapids’ 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night at Sporting Park, a sluggish start and late heartbreak snapped the Rapids’ club-best nine-game unbeaten run, perhaps a product of the team’s two-week layoff that may have stopped their wave of momentum.

“I think Kansas City is a tough place to play, everybody knows they have a team that throws a lot of bodies at you,” said Rapids coach Oscar Pareja, whose team dropped to 3-5-17 all-time in Kansas City. “If you don’t find your rhythm quick, they impose their rhythm, and I saw it that way.”

On a sweltering night in Kansas City, things didn’t seem to quite click for Pareja’s squad, particularly in the first half. The Rapids were out-possessed 63-37 in the opening 45 minutes and trailed 1-0 at the break after Benny Feilhaber’s stunning 33rd minute goal.

A spirited second half pulled them back even after Edson Buddle’s deflected goal in the 77th minute, but then a defensive breakdown led to Zusi’s go-ahead back-breaker in the 88th minute.

“I thought we were not as solid as we wanted,” Pareja said of his defense postgame. “The second half was much better, so I’m going to stick with that image of a team that was defending better in the second half.”

After a 2-0 win over Vancouver on August 17, the Rapids received an extra week of rest before Saturday night’s encounter. But rather than recharge their batteries before the home stretch of the season, Saturday looked more like a case of shaking off a week’s worth of rust.

“These games are tight, especially at this point of the season where everybody’s fighting for little things,” Pareja said postgame. “Kansas City had the fortune to find that goal at the end, which left us very disappointed.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.