COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It was the kind of game the Colorado Rapids had grown accustomed to winning. After all, the Rapids won their first and only MLS Cup a year-and-a-half ago by gutting out hard-nosed, defense-oriented victories, so leading 1-0 deep into the second half against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night they appeared to be headed towards one of those trademark blue-collar wins.
But after allowing two goals in the last 10 minutes, the Rapids felt shattered, and weren’t shy in expressing their disappointment after the game.
When asked postgame about where Wednesday’s loss ranked in his mind, midfielder Jeff Larentowicz labeled the defeat “probably one of the most embarrassing” he had experienced in his two-plus seasons in Commerce City.
HIGHLIGHTS: COL 1, SJ 2
“When’s the story going to change, you know?” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “We can look at the games and try to the take the positives and say we’re going to build on those things. But we were a team that in the past that would grind out results and it was about the result. I’ve seen both sides of it.
"We need to get back to that graft, that fight that we had before that. Regardless of whether we’re playing well, we make it difficult for other teams.”
The Rapids appeared to have a stranglehold on the contest deep into the second half, but late fatigue and sloppy play gifted the Earthquakes a lifeline back into the contest. Hunter Freeman turned a rebound into his own net under pressure from Alan Gordon for an 83rd-minute equalizer, and Gordon later drew a penalty that Chris Wondolowski turned into the game-winning goal in injury time.
Wednesday’s loss followed a defeat on Saturday in Vancouver, where the Rapids dominated proceedings until an 80th-minute defensive collapse gifted the Whitecaps a 1-0 victory. Following yet another collapse, the heart of the Rapids defense, center back and team captain Drew Moor, offered a stern message for his team.
“I’ve been here for a little bit now, and this one stings as much as any loss I’ve ever had,” Moor said. “It has nothing to do with coaching, tactics, formations, it’s just guys digging deep on the field and grinding out results.
"That’s not a game [we lose], 10 minutes to go here and we’re up 1-0. I don’t think that’s happened since I’ve been here to lose a game like that. We close games like that out, and you know I think everybody that’s been on the field the last two games, every single one’s got to look in the mirror tonight, and decide whether they’re – myself included – and decide whether they’re putting everything into this that they need.”
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who appeared to clip Gordon for the foul leading to the game-winning penalty, echoed Moor’s frustrations.
“This has been the most frustrating two games I’ve ever been a part of,” Pickens told MLSsoccer.com afterwards. “And they were back-to-back and they were so close together. So it’s tough. We weren’t threatening much, to be honest. These two games were a tough stretch and it doesn’t get any easier.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.