COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids were looking at a third straight home victory on Saturday night with seconds to go in regular time when the referee awarded a penalty to the visiting New England Revolution and Shalrie Joseph duly converted to tie the game 2-2.
The disappointment at dropping two points after taking the lead was magnified by the fact that the defending MLS Cup champions know they have to take every opportunity they can at home if they are to get anywhere near the heights of 2010.
Before the New England game, the Rapids had beaten Vancouver and the New York Red Bulls at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in their previous two home games. Now they only have five home games left in the league season vs. six away. And the schedule doesn’t get any easier, with a fixture-list crammed full of CONCACAF Champions League games coming up over the next three months.
“From now on, we're going to have so many tough games, we've got like 10 games left and CONCACAF games coming up, they are going to be tough games,” said Rapids defender Kosuke Kimura. “But it's a little bit more like a mental game now. We can't drop any points [at home] from now on.”
The problem the Rapids faced at the weekend was that most teams visiting Colorado tend to play well behind the ball, making them difficult to break down. The notable exception were the Red Bulls, who came out aggressively and were thrashed 4-1.
Breaking teams out of their defensive shell is one thing the Rapids will have to work on if they are to get close to the maximum points from the remaining home games. The other is defend a lead better, said captain Pablo Mastroeni.
“More importantly, we've got to learn and figure out a way to break down teams that are going to sit back when we have a lead, or sit back and defend, and figure out a way to do that a little bit better,” Mastroeni said. “When a team sits behind the ball, it’s a lot harder to break down than it is a New York team pressing numbers forward.”
The Rapids played three games in a week and there were some tired legs by the end of Saturday night. Kimura said, however, there can be no excuses because things certainly aren’t going to get any easier.
“We’ve got so many home games coming up,” he said. “All we’ve got to do is not drop points at home, we just have to keep working at it.”
The Rapids’ five remaining league games at home are against Columbus, Chivas USA, San Jose, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake. Their next game is on the road at the Philadelphia Union Friday July 29.