A questionable penalty decision might be the story line from the Colorado Rapids’ season-opening 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, but that would overlook the Rapids’ solid performance in Pablo Mastroeni’s head coaching debut.
The Rapids’ lone goal came in the 72nd minute when midfielder Marvin Chavez went down softly in the box on a push from New York’s Jamison Olave, a call that will likely be scrutinized for days. Yet that was just one of Colorado’s 16 chances on goal in a game that saw the visiting Rapids absorb early pressure, then take control for large chunks of Mastroeni’s debut on the touchline.
“We were organized, and I think six weeks of preseason were validated with a good point here on the road,” Mastroeni said postgame. “I thought we played well.”
The match’s final stats reflected an even contest. The Red Bulls carried a slight 52-48 advantage in possession, but the Rapids mostly controlled the tempo after a shaky start. They outnumbered New York in attempts on goal (16-11), shots on target (6-2), and corner kicks (8-2).
So while a little luck perhaps helped them some on Saturday, the Rapids were pleased with their overall performance.
“I thought we had some very good chances, it was a pretty evenly matched game and the effort and the desire that the team showed was what stands out most to me,” Rapids defender and captain Drew Moor said. “A great way to start off the season.”
Mastroeni was far from the only debutant on Saturday. Making a last-second start for the injured Clint Irwin, rookie backup goalie John Berner was solid in net and 19-year-old right winger Dillon Serna hit several shots on net in his first MLS start, helping make Mastroeni look good both on the scoreboard and in his decision-making.
“I think once they settled in, they put in a decent performance,” Mastroeni said. “They showed a lot of character.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.