Physicality and intensity can get you far in the world of US soccer, but as the Colorado Rapids found out Tuesday night, sometimes they're just not enough.
The Rapids made no secret of the feeling they deserved more than what the 2-0 scoreline in a back-and-forth US Open Cup tussle with Sporting Kansas City reflected.
Five cautions were distributed in a game that featured several tense verbal exchanges between the two sides, and despite the high level of physical play dictated by the home side, the Rapids walked away from Livestrong Sporting Park feeling as though they matched Kansas City physically.
“We’ve had some sequences where the team has that [physical] experience of that caliber, but tonight was 90 minutes of that, and the game was very chippy, and I have to say that the team matched that intensity and I’m proud of them,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “I thought the score was very generous with Kansas City. I thought we deserved much more than that. The game was very even.”
Center back Scott Palguta, who started in place of late scratch Drew Moor, agreed with his skipper.
“It’s just frustrating for us because we don’t feel we played that bad,” Palguta said. “We knew we had let in a goal we shouldn’t have given up, but we were confident. We had a fighting attitude and thought we could pull a goal back.”
In a game where the Rapids had to rule out six regular starters due to injury – Moor, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Marvell Wynne, Brian Mullan and Pablo Mastroeni all missed out – the Rapids went elbow-to-elbow with a squad that Palguta labeled “probably the most physical team in the league.”
Despite the silver linings, a first-half header from Aurélien Collin and a second-half volley from Teal Bunbury ultimately doomed Colorado and saw them eliminated from the US Open Cup.
“It’s very frustrating because the goals we seem to be conceding against [Sporting KC] have been our fault,” Palguta said. “Going back to last year, they’ve scored two goals on us in four straight games, and they seem to be soft goals that can be avoided.”
In retrospect, however, the loss might not have been the worst thing for the Rapids. Should injury-plagued Colorado have won, they would have faced four matches in just a two-week span later this month. But even with the chance to give his squad some badly needed rest, Pareja instead focused on the ache of the defeat following the game.
“You may think that sometimes you have but at the same time it hurts,” Pareja said. “We are disappointed to get out of the Open Cup. I could sense the disappointment in the locker room to not get the result. We are still disappointed with the fact that we didn’t advance, but now we are looking forward to re-concentrating at the games that are coming up.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.