KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Colorado Rapids battled to a tough and intense 1-1 tie away against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night and, while there was some relief to get out with a point, they believe they could have stolen all three.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
In stifling humidity and weakened again by injuries, the Rapids put on a courageous defensive display after taking the lead with a wonder-strike from Conor Casey in the 32nd minute. Graham Zusi equalized for Sporting half an hour later and the visitors fought thereafter to keep the surging home team from pulling the win.
“It was a battle,” defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “There were a lot of fouls, a lot of stoppages and we were put under a lot of pressure. The first 50 or 60 minutes, we played like the champions we are. After they scored — it was a tough one to give up — they had us under a lot of pressure. I think we showed fantastic character in not giving them a second.”
Nevertheless, Moor said he felt the Rapids still had chances to score a second themselves, something echoed by other players and head coach Gary Smith.
“I thought we could have nicked it, but we’ll take the point and go from there,” said midfielder Joseph Nane, who came on as a substitute for injured captain Pablo Mastroeni after just half an hour. “I think the game was tough and physical and also the conditions, the weather — it was too humid. It was tough for both teams, actually, but it was very competitive.”
Smith praised the effort of his players, especially their defensive prowess for withstanding a tough period after Zusi’s goal. The coach described the play of Matt Pickens — who made a crucial save in stoppage time to keep the result — as “world class.”
WATCH: Pickens' big save
“It was a very spirited and hard working display,” Smith said. “The guys did a tremendous job to weather that period [after the goal], but I felt we could have made some better attacking choices ourselves and maybe take it 2-1.”
Smith was forced to field an unusual starting XI after key starters Jamie Smith and Brian Mullan were left at home because of injury. Smith has a tight calf muscle and Mullan a back problem. It meant the Rapids were without their two first-choice wide midfielders, and Smith went with Wells Thompson and Ross LaBauex in their places.
Pickens said that, in the end, the point from Wednesday’s match was welcome as they head back home to face Vancouver on Saturday.
“On the road, it’s what we need to do,” the goalkeeper said. “I thought the guys put a hell of an effort in. It’s not easy with the circumstances and [Sporting KC] are on a roll. It’s a good point for us.”