Rapids struggle to accept result in L.A.

The Colorado Rapids would like to have a chance to speak on their behalf involving referee Jair Marrufo's decisions in awarding three late penalty kicks -- one for, two against -- but they're not interested in emptying their wallets.

In the final five minutes Sunday, the Rapids saw a comfortable draw, and their first point on the road this season, evaporate into a 3-2 away defeat to the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.

In the end, all the Rapids did was emphasize their constitutional right to free speech. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

"In the past, I have called the head of the referees' committee and made comments, good and bad," said Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo, already in a testy mood coming off the two-match suspension handed down to Pablo Mastroeni for an act of violent conduct that did not even merit a foul during last week's match with the MetroStars.

"From today on, I will not make another call, good or bad. I don't believe that anything like this would go very good in another country, but I don't have any control over this. I got fined (by MLS) before, one time. I'm not going to get fined twice.

"I accepted the decision on Pablo. I don't agree with it. But when you see (Kyle) Beckerman bleeding out of the nose on an elbow (and nothing is called), it only makes you think. But, hey, we have to live with it. What may not break you only can make you stronger. I stand behind my players tonight. It's a shame that things happen that really don't belong in the game sometimes."

A 1-1 deadlock looked bound for a sharing of the points until Guillermo 'Pando' Ramirez was tackled off the ball by Rapids centerback Nat Borchers as he entered the top of the penalty area in the 85th minute. Landon Donovan clinically pulled the spot kick inside the left goalpost a minute later.

Two minutes later, 75th-minute substitution Jeff Cunningham slotted a ball behind the Galaxy defense for Luchi Gonzalez, who touched the ball away inside the area before sliding Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman took out his feet. Cunningham pushed his 88th-minute penalty into the right-side netting.

One more time, Marrufo pointed to the spot in the 89th minute as Tyrone Marshall was pulled down from behind by Rapids substitute Guy Melamed in trying to rise to a header off of Donovan's centering ball. Again, Donovan sent Colorado keeper Joe Cannon the wrong way in pushing his spot kick to the right just seconds into the allocated five minutes of stoppage time.

"I give (the ref) the first one, sure. The second one, no way!" Borchers said. "The first PK they called, against me, I think it was valid. I broke up a clear scoring opportunity. I did what I had to do.

"I disagree with the ref's call on (the last penalty). In a situation like that, two guys are going for the ball, they're grabbing each other and, if anything, that call should be called the other way. There's a physical element to this game where you got to let the players play. I don't think there was any reason to make that call. There's so many things I want to say right now.

"We worked really hard in the game. We didn't deserve to lose."

Henderson, who cleared Chris Albright's header off the right goalpost from a Donovan corner before the action that led to the decisive penalty started, echoed a similar sentiment about the audacity to give out penalties that influence the result at the end.

"So much stuff happens in the penalty box. All game," Henderson said. "I watch games on TV all over the world, in Germany, England, Spain, everywhere. People are fighting for position and things like that happen. Guys can get arrested for some things they do in the penalty box.

"And to make decisions at that time (of the match) ... We're gutted. You just have that feeling, coming back twice on the road against a team that's playing well, you feel something's been taken away from you."

The Rapids did receive a few positives in return, namely in the front line as Jean Philippe Peguero, the club's leading scorer in his first MLS season last year, made his first start since Opening Day and scored his first goal of the campaign with a 27th-minute equalizing header from Henderson's right-side cross.

Peguero has been slowed by offseason hip surgery and, more recently, a sprained ankle. He played 75 minutes, making way for Jamaican super sub Cunningham, whose penalty gave him his team-best third goal despite only playing 82 minutes (three matches, no starts) this season.

Clavijo said the two strikers will be looked at as a starting pair once both regain 90-minute fitness. Henderson expects both to be starting when ready.

"It's a great option to have," Clavijo said. "I would say Jeff is, maybe, another week, 10 days away. Peguero, you could see he was not match-fit."

Damian Secore is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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