The high-altitude affair against a resurgent Rapids side – now unbeaten in their last five matches – posed problems for CITY SC from the start, with goalkeeper Roman Bürki making several spectacular saves to keep the score level long enough for winger Rasmus Alm to put the expansion side ahead with a 57th-minute strike.
Despite a 61st-minute “precautionary” substitution of injured striker João Klauss, St. Louis looked prepared to take that lead to the bank as Bürki continued his heroics through the second half. But a 92nd-minute dagger from Colorado substitute Michael Barrios – his second stoppage-time equalizer in the last two matches – forced STL to accept a draw that, to Bürki, “feels like a loss.”
“That's why I'm a little bit emotional,” said the former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper. “... We had no chance in the first half. They had like multiple chances. It looked like they were number one in the league and we are somewhere else and the complete opposite. And I mean, that's not what we are standing for.
“I mean, we played a really good game against Cincinnati seven days ago and now we showed this performance on the field. That's something we have to talk about.”
Chief among Bürki’s frustrations was a lack of defensive effort from attacking players who he felt were too ready to leave the hard defending for their back line: “We had a lot of guys, they came in on the field and you just expect them to work against the ball and not just in the offense with the ball. I know it's way more fun to play with the ball and play offensive football than defending, but to win a game, you need to track back and to support the backline.”
Head coach Bradley Carnell, while acknowledging a general sense of disappointment, had a brighter view of the match, focusing more on the learning opportunities presented by the game’s difficulties, ranging from the challenging altitude to Klauss’ untimely injury.
“Learn to suffer, right? In the first half, we had to learn to suffer as a group," the manager said of the Supporters' Shield leaders. "I thought we were giving them too much time and space. I don't think we're compact enough. I don't think we identified the triggers well enough in the first half, even though we turned over one or two, three dangerous balls and could have got profit out of those and benefit out of those.
“But again, this is a game where you learn to stick together, right? You get challenged a lot. … We grow as a group here and we learn. And it was by no means a terrible performance.”
On Klauss' injury status, Carnell couldn't offer a definitive diagnosis, but said the club will monitor his progress over the next 24 to 48 hours and the DP striker told him “it doesn’t feel that bad.” Should Klauss have to miss matches, STL may have to deviate from their preferred two-striker setup featuring him and Nicholas Gioachinni, which could in turn open up more opportunities for Tomás Ostrák. The attacking midfielder has come off the bench the last three matches, but has the ability to play centrally underneath a lone striker.
Regardless of the attacking setup, more performances like this Saturday’s from Bürki will ensure CITY SC have a great shot in every match.
“On the night he was world-class. He held onto the balls he needed to hold onto. His football was excellent, got into great spots, which made some saves look easy, but they were proper high-class, high-level saves,” praised Carnell.
Winger Jared Stroud, who earned his fifth goal contribution of the season with an assist to Alm, offered equally high remarks: “If he's not goalie of the week and team of the week, then I don't know. There's nothing else he could do. I mean, he was incredible.”