The Colorado Rapids have been relying a lot on their depth in recent weeks, and Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena was perhaps the best example of it all season.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
With Jamie Smith left at home with an injury and Conor Casey starting on the bench ahead of another game this coming weekend, it meant starts for Sanna Nyassi and little-used Ross LaBauex. Joseph Nane also came on as a second-half substitute for Pablo Mastroeni in central midfield and made an immediate impact.
Head coach Gary Smith was fulsome in his praise of the younger players.
“The younger guys were absolutely outstanding,” the Rapids coach told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match. “We are starting to see some real development in some of these younger players who are coming into a competitive group and doing everything they can to keep our run going.”
Smith said the only disappointment on the night was surrendering the lead twice in a helter-skelter, six-minute stretch of the first half, during which all four of the game’s goals were scored.
Jeff Larentowicz first gave the Rapids a lead when he put home the rebound of his own missed penalty, only to see the Red Bulls march right back down the field and equalize through Thierry Henry. Two minutes later the scenario repeated itself as Larentowicz scored on a free kick followed by a Luke Rodgers equalizer before even 60 seconds had run off the clock.
Other than those mental lapses, the head coach said he was delighted with the creativity of his group in what he said was a very quick-paced game.
“We may have been a bit fortunate with the two goals, but we made some very nice openings and I felt we may have deserved more than a point,” he said. “We were competitive, creative and energetic.”
Smith used a new formation for Wednesday's game, slotting in LaBauex just behind Andre Akpan up top. It was LaBauex’s first start of the season and only his second MLS start as a professional. The thinking behind it was to rest Casey, who is only just coming back from a niggling hamstring injury and had to endure a four-hour flight so soon after Sunday’s draw with Toronto, followed by a return-trip to Denver for this weekend’s clash with Sporting KC.
Casey and Quincy Amarikwa — who came on as a late substitute and almost pinched it at the death as he just failed to direct the ball past Greg Sutton in the Red Bulls net — will likely feature prominently this weekend, Smith said.
Tyrone Marshall was also rested in central defense with a view to him playing at the weekend, and it was always the intention to withdraw Mastroeni after an hour or so tonight, Smith added.