Despite a severe injury crisis that left the team with only one regular central defender, the Colorado Rapids' solid defense still shined brightly in a their scoreless draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon in Denver.
The Rapids were stretched a number of times during the match at Invesco Field at Mile High, but managed to hold out despite the unavailability of U.S. international Pablo Mastroeni and Ritchie Kotschau, both usual starters in the Rapids back line.
"We started the first half because we were going to ask two midfielders [Joey DiGiamarino and Matt Crawford] to man mark and let Nat [Borchers] to play sweeper as the only true back," said Rapids coach Tim Hankinson. "We felt if there were any mistakes made by the two markers, Nat could cover that."
The injury bug, which led to six Rapids players in all being ruled out for the game, continued to trouble the team on Saturday when Kotschau had to come on for DiGiamarino, who suffered a twisted ankle.
"[Kotschau] was clearly a player that we didn't want to have to use tonight because his knee is bruised up and we said we'd only use him as a last resort," said Hankinson.
The Rapids have still allowed just 17 goals on the season, behind only the Kansas City Wizards for the league's best defense. Columbus has also allowed just 17 goals, but has played two games less. But the focus on defense came with a cost on offense and in the midfield.
"I thought in the first half our [defense] did very well in stopping [Crew strikers Edson] Buddle and [Jeff] Cunningham. What we lost was our ability to recover and show work rate in the midfield, and therefore [the Crew] did take the midfield," said Hankinson.
The 0-0 result means that the Rapids have scored one goal in their last five competitive games. Since scoring in the 74th minute in a win against the New England Revolution on July 4, the Rapids' have managed only one other goal, against the San Jose Earthquakes in a July 17 road loss. The Rapids own the league's weakest attack, with just 14 goals scored in their 17 matches.
"It's not been for lack of trying," said Rapids captain and forward John Spencer. "I think it will take one of those games where one hits you on the back of the head [and goes in]."
For Spencer, who has said this will be his final season in Major League Soccer, his one goal is the lowest output of his career.
"If you had told me at spring training that at this point of the season that I would be sitting on one goal, I would have laughed at you," he said.
Geoffrey Urland is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.