COMMERCE CITY, Colo. –The Colorado Rapids vowed to "focus on their part" heading into their match with the Houston Dynamo, but fell just short of lifting the Supporters' Shield on Decision Day, in a 1-1 home draw, coupled with a scoreless draw between league-leading FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy.
“I think it’s been a fantastic season for the guys,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni reflected postgame. “Unfortunately we came up a little bit short as far as the Supporters' Shield. But we didn’t [lose] it because of today. There were games along the way that we could’ve done better with. But overall, I couldn’t be prouder of the work.”
Colorado found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline early, conceding a goal in the 20th minute when Tim Howard’s parry landed at the feet of Dynamo midfielder Andrew Wenger, who struck true to give the Dynamo an early lead, a lead Houston would take into the break.
Just as they have done all season, the Rapids would "keep fighting" and continued to threaten Houston’s defense in the second half. The effort finally paid off in the 67th minute when Shkëlzen Gashi’s low shot slid past Joe Willis to even the score at 1-1.
“Anytime you’re chasing the game, it’s always difficult,” Mastroeni said. “I think the attitude in the second half to really get after it…Any other day we come away with three points.”
The goal marked the first at home for Gashi since joining Colorado.
“Gashi has a nose for goal and it was a great finish,” Mastroeni continued. “I think the important thing to take away from this game is the mentality piece. That has been our driving force all year and whether we’re up and need to see our way through the game, or we’re down and need to find our way back into the game, we’ve been able to find that this year.”
Shortly after the goal, Jermaine Jones substituted into the game for Colorado, marking the first minutes of action for the US International since sustaining a knee injury on July 4.
“I felt pretty good,” Jones said of his return. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there. Everyone is a bit down because we had some chances to finish that game up. But for me personally, I’m happy after 14 weeks to come out and play.”
Jones emphasized that he still not 100 percent fit and continues to feel lingering pain in his knee, but is ready to contribute to Colorado as they now head into the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“At the end of the day I need games to get to 100 percent,” Jones said. “It’s always special for me to bring my impact to the team and I have to start.”
Despite the instant boost Jones seemed to give to the crowd and his teammates on the field, the Rapids were unable to find an eventual game winner. Nevertheless, the draw secured Colorado’s first undefeated season at home in franchise history.
Mastroeni acknowledged the achievement, but reiterated there is work yet to be done.
“My grandson will think it’s a pretty cool feat but it’s part of the process,” he said. “But now, it’s a new season. It’s a whole new mentality that is necessary. It’s why we coach, it’s why we play, it’s why fans support teams. It’s the playoffs.”