The Colorado Rapids pushed and pushed and tried any number of combinations up front, but came up only with a disappointing scoreless draw at home Sunday against Toronto FC.
The result extends the club’s unbeaten streak to five games, but four of those results are draws.
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“It’s another one where we feel like we walked away with a positive effort but nothing to show for it,” Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com after the game.
Goals are hard to come by right now for the Rapids, who have scored only four times in their past eight games. But head coach Gary Smith thought his club missed out on a potential scoring chance late in the first half when forward Quincy Amarikwa was upended by the TFC defense and no call was made.
“Now for me, when a defender dives in, he runs a risk,” Smith said. “He makes contact with Quincy inside the penalty area. I’ve seen penalties given for far less than that. At the moment, we are so far away from officials giving us any sort of leg up whatsoever. It’s very, very frustrating.”
In a tight game with very few clear cut chances created by both teams, such moments can alter the course of a game. But Smith was also quick to point out that his own players needed to create more in open play rather than rely on set pieces.
“There is a blunted edge to our attacking play,” he said. “Making the right decision, choosing the right pass and ultimately finishing with real quality under pressure is why center forwards are paid all the money. Today, we lacked that cutting edge.”
One of those players who has made a difference in the past is Conor Casey, who made his first start since suffering a hamstring injury on April 3. Casey was substituted around the hour mark by Andre Akpan.
“He needs minutes, he needs to find the pace of games again,” Smith said of Casey. “He just needs more minutes, more match play.”
Where the offense struggled on Sunday, however, goalkeeper Matt Pickens picked up the slack. The veteran kept the Rapids in the match on more than one occasion against a TFC offense, and stoned TFC forward Nick Soolsma on the best scoring chance of the match in the 45th minute.
“What I didn’t expect was that Matt would be called upon as frequently as he was, especially in the first period,” Smith said. “He made a fantastic save off Soolsma.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Rapids, who fly to New York on Monday for a Wednesday night game against the Red Bulls.
“This is probably going to be a little bit of a microcosm of the rest of the year,”’ Larentowicz said of the upcoming midweek trip. “We know that games are going to come quick. It’s just a tough one. That’s why we wanted to get full points tonight because playing in New York against a strong squad is going to be difficult with midweek travel. That’s why we wanted to win tonight but this is our life. We move on, we have to play another game.”