COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Saturday night’s 2-2 draw against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps added another point to the Colorado Rapids’ 2017 campaign total, but the result felt more like a devastating loss than a point earned.
“We lost this game, and I say lost because where we are at in the season, it's a loss,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “We lost this game on a set piece and I think that is something we work on several times a week. We have conceded two goals in the last two games on some kind of set piece.”
Prior to that set piece — which resulted in a Fredy Monteroequalizer in the 76th minute — Colorado was in the driver’s seat to earn all three points after Kevin Doyle’sgo-ahead goal in the 54th minute put them up 2-1. But the Whitecaps created numerous opportunities in the final half hour of the match, with the visitors both equalizing and looking to steal the win late.
“This game is about those moments and when they arise you never know, and you've got to be alert and your teammates got to keep you alert,” Mastroeni said. “It’s unfortunate tonight we let that slip away, but you've got to learn from that and move forward.”
“After we hit 2-1, we have to play a bit better; not too stressful and without panic,” Rapids midfielder Shkëlzen Gashi said. “We have to learn about our mistakes and do better.”
Gashi’s return to Colorado’s starting XI for the first time in over two months of league play was one positive for the Rapids. The Albanian Designated Player has been dealing with a nagging Achilles injury that has made his appearances sporadic throughout 2017, but he reiterated that he felt good physically following his start Saturday.
“I was happy after the game, obviously not for the result, but for how I was feeling with my injury,” he said. “It was just communication with the coaches before the game. The last time it was re-injured was at 83 or 85 or 90 minutes, so we said relax and go 70 minutes. That was good for me.”
A healthy Gashi is a welcome addition to a Rapids offense which has been struggling with a Western Conference low of 22 goals scored this season. But offense wasn’t the crux of the Rapids issues Saturday night.
“We’re going to score goals,” Rapids forward Dominique Badji said. “It’s just concentration. Once we get the lead, keep it. At the beginning of the year, [the forwards] weren’t doing much and we weren’t getting results; now we’re scoring more and still not getting results. They just have to keep feeding us. We have players in the box that can finish.”
With just 13 games remaining, including eight road matches, every game is now essentially a must-win if the last-place Rapids (6-12-3) hope to maintain any shot at salvaging their season.
“We've got to continue to be dynamic in making the attack and capitalize on our chances,” Mastroeni said. “Not giving up goals that aren’t complete football that’s beating you, these are set plays that we can do much better on. We need to get one game better, we had this game and we were in a good position the last 20 minutes of this game. There are no away games and no home games, they’re must-win games. Everywhere we play, we need to win.”