KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids put every ounce of energy they had into Wednesday night’s match, but neither managed to walk away with the points as the two sides settled for a 1-1 draw.
Colorado opened the scoring through Conor Casey and Kansas City equalized through Graham Zusi, but the all-important second goal was hard to come by for both teams despite running themselves ragged in the attempt to find the winner.
Sporting extended their unbeaten streak to nine games in the league with the draw. It was the ninth time this season the Rapids have been forced to settle for a point.
Teal Bunbury, who earned the start in place of C.J. Sapong, very nearly put Kansas City ahead in the 12th minute after muscling his way onto a ball at the top of the penalty area. After turning to the left and creating space for a shot, Bunbury uncorked a swerving drive with his left foot that crashed onto the post.
The rebound eventually fell to Roger Espinoza, who beat a sliding Pablo Mastroeni to the ball and got a touch but couldn’t avoid the contact from the Rapids’ midfielder. That challenge left both players rolling around on the field, with Mastroeni getting the worst of it as well as a yellow card. He would eventually be substituted in the 30th minute.
Following Bunbury’s strike, both teams exchanged half chances, with Sporting's Omar Bravo firing wide after sliding to meet Kei Kamara’s cross at the back post and Colorado's Omar Cummings forcing Jimmy Nielsen to parry away his low effort.
But despite most of the play being bogged down in the midfield, Colorado managed to bypass the middle of the pitch altogether to open the scoring through a wonderful individual effort from Casey in the 32nd minute.
The play started innocuously enough as Tyrone Marshall’s long free kick from inside the Rapids’ half was chipped toward Casey at the top of the penalty area. But with Sporting defense on its heels, Colorado’s burly striker took the ball down with his chest, let it bounce once and hit a shot on the half volley, rifling the ball low and away from a diving Nielsen.
Neither team made much noise the remainder of the half, but each manager still sent out the same team to start the second half.
That nearly paid off for Kansas City a few minutes into the second period when Kamara got behind the Rapids’ defense and sent an inch-perfect low cross to the back post for Bravo. Unfortunately for Kansas City, Rapids fullback Kosuke Kimura beat Bravo to the ball with the goal gaping and conceded a corner kick.
Kansas City manager Peter Vermes made the next move, bringing Sapong on for Bunbury in the 61st minute, and the rookie immediately changed the match.
Sapong won the first header he challenged for and worked himself open just a minute later to take the shot that led to Kansas City’s equalizer. After Graham Zusi played him in behind the defense, Sapong drove a shot low and hard to the left of Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens. The shot was saved, but the rebound fell directly to Zusi, who calmly slid the ball into the back of the net to even the game at 1-1.
Ten minutes later, the post denied Sporting in a wacky play that was everything but a goal. Michael Harrington managed to beat Kimura one-on-one and found Bravo at the top of the penalty area. Bravo’s shot was saved by a sprawling Pickens, who left the ball loose nearby. Both Harrington and Pickens ran onto the ball, and it squirted over just behind Bravo, who stretched out to manage an uncomortable shot that hit the post and sailed across the area.
That set up an intense final 15 minutes, including six minutes of stoppage time, in which both sides pressed desperately for the winner only to come up empty to settle for a point apiece.
Sporting KC next host Chivas USA at Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday in a nationally televised match (7:30 pm ET, Galavision).
The Rapids, meanwhile, return home to host the Vancouver Whitecaps also on Saturday.
COL -- Conor Casey 5 (Tyrone Marshall 1) 32
KC -- Graham Zusi 3 (unassisted) 62
COL -- Pablo Mastroeni (caution; Reckless Tackle) 12
COL -- Ross LaBauex (caution; Reckless Tackle) 23
KC -- Julio Cesar (caution; Reckless Foul) 51
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Omar Cummings (Caleb Folan 82), Jeff Larentowicz, Ross LaBauex (Sanna Nyassi 65), Pablo Mastroeni (Joseph Nane 30), Wells Thompson, Conor Casey.
Substitutes Not Used: Andre Akpan, Danny Earls, Scott Palguta, Steward Ceus.
Sporting KC -- Jimmy Nielsen, Matt Besler, Aurelien Collin, Chance Myers (Birahim Diop 89), Michael Harrington, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza, Julio Cesar, Graham Zusi, Omar Bravo, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 61).
Substitutes Not Used: Scott Lorenz, Luke Sassano, Milos Stojcev, Shavar Thomas, Eric Kronberg.
Referee: Niko Bratsis
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Kermit Quisenberry
4th Official: Abiodun Okulaja
Weather: Clear and 86 degrees