COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – A late blunder from the Colorado Rapids gifted the Columbus Crew a 76th-minute equalizer, and a share of the points, in a Fourth of July duel at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park that featured plenty of late fireworks in front of a sellout crowd.
Columbus deserved their point after forcing several fine saves from Clint Irwin and seeing a second-half goal narrowly ruled back for offsides. But it took a costly error from rookie midfielder Jared Watts, whose misplay handed Ethan Finlay a straightforward finish after a poor back pass from Dillon Powers, to send the Ohioans home with a positive result.
It's the fourth straight draw for the Crew, while the Rapids’ unbeaten spell improved to three matches (two wins and a draw), though they’ll certainly feel that they should’ve taken the three points in front of a sellout Independence Day crowd. Midfielder Vicente Sanchez put the Rapids up 1-0 in the 59th minute with a terrific header that was later ruled an own goal as the final touch came off Crew defender Eric Gehrig.
On a pleasant evening in suburban Denver, the Rapids nearly took the quick lead on the visitors when Sanchez’s volley was well saved by Steve Clark just 95 seconds in. Deshorn Brown’s follow-up flew into the side netting, but the Rapids had the Crew on their heels out of the gate.
Despite Colorado controlling the match’s tempo and chances in the game’s early going, the Crew nearly hit back on the counter in the 19th minute. A smart feed into the box left Ben Speas alone on the top of the six-yard box, but Rapids defender Shane O’Neill came up with a terrific tackle to save a likely goal.
A few minutes later, Irwin came up with a sure-handed stop on Justin Meram’s header to keep things scoreless as the Crew continued to work their way into the match after a slow start.
The half ended scoreless after both sides accumulated several quality chances. But Columbus seized the advantage after the break, nearly scoring in the 57th minute via Jairo Arrieta. But the finish was waved off as he was controversially ruled offside.
And two minutes later, the Rapids made Columbus pay for the miss.
Rapids right back Marvell Wynne – a constant offensive threat all night – delivered a cross in for the wily Sanchez, who cut across Gehrig to create the deflection that put Colorado in front.
But Columbus continued to charge forward, forcing Irwin into a string of acrobatic saves, highlighted by his sprawling 74th-minute stop just in front of Arrieta.
Finally, however, the Crew broke through, with plenty of help. A Crew through ball into the penalty box was Watts’ for the taking, but the rookie midfielder put too strong a touch on the ball, falling right to Finlay for the easy finish and his fourth goal of the season.
The Rapids start a two-game road swing, starting on Saturday against Philadelphia (7:00 pm ET, MLS Live), while the Crew head to Red Bull Arena for a battle with New York next Saturday at the same time (7:00 pm, MLS Live).
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Clint Irwin||The Rapids will rue their late letdown, but they could easily have lost this one were it not for their GK's heroics.|
|2||Ethan Finlay||Filled the gap left by Federico Higuain on a night when his team really needed it. A promising performance to build on.|
The Uruguayan schemer showed why he's central to the Colorado attack. Points lost for that bad tackle on Hector Jimenez, though.