COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — For the Colorado Rapids, Saturday night’s 2-2 draw against visiting Chivas USA felt more like a defeat after the defending MLS Cup champions twice failed to hold onto the lead.
The Rapids first conceded an equalizer in the 36th minute and then, with four minutes left until the final whistle, allowed the Rojiblancos to again level out the affair.
Judging by their performance, captain Pablo Mastroeni said Colorado still have a way to go to learn better how to protect a lead, and even shouldered part of the blame.
“It’s been our Achilles heel,” Mastroeni said. “We have to do better at making decisions and communicating better throughout the team during the game to try and keep the lead, and that starts with me. This feels like a four- or five-nil loss.”
The game seemed safe for the home team when Jeff Larentowicz nodded home a header from a Sanna Nyassi corner in the 69th minute to once again put the Rapids on top.
Chivas had barely created any chances up until that moment, one of the few coming when new acquisition Juan Pablo Ángel scored on his Chivas debut towards the end of the first half to erase Caleb Folan’s 13th-minute go-ahead goal.
Chivas’ lack of opportunities gave Rapids head coach Gary Smith the confidence to think his team would hold the lead after Larentowicz’s goal.
“The second goal, we scored it at a good time and I really felt that we might just hang on to that,” Smith said. “I thought we just did enough. We had some good chances. We tried to take the game to them. At 2-1, I was really looking at a win and thinking that we could see it out. And of course, when you concede so late, it does feel like a loss.”
The positive for the Rapids is that, with the draw against Chivas, the team extended its unbeaten streak to six. The negative is that surrounding four victories in the middle of that run are two 2-2 ties where the Rapids have given up late goals — Saturday’s game and a similar home draw against New England on July 23, when the visitors equalized with a 90th-minute penalty.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, to give up such a late goal,” said central defender Tyrone Marshall of the Chivas match. “I think we didn’t have the patience to keep the ball and kill the game. We kept dumping it in the back and giving them opportunities to come at us. That’s a learning experience and another game that we have to learn from. We didn’t lose the game, but we gave away two points here tonight.”
The Rapids will have to swallow their disappointment quickly, as an early morning flight awaits on Monday. Colorado will make their way down to Honduras to play their second CONCACAF Champions League game next Tuesday night against Real España. They return to MLS league play next weekend with a road trip to Chicago.