COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – D.C. United were poised to be the first team to punch their ticket to the playoffs, but following Saturday night’s 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids, those plans have been postponed at least for one more week.
A goal by D.C. defender Steve Birnbaum with three minutes remaining preserved a point for the visitors, who were looking to bounce back from last week’s 3-0 loss to Eastern Conference rivals New York Red Bulls.
Yet it was the host Rapids who came out with the game’s first punches.
With veteran left back Maynor Figueroa back from international duty and Drew Moor returning from suspension, Colorado controlled the tempo from the opening whistle with over 60 percent of possession in the first 20 minutes.
Despite all of the attacking efforts from the Rapids in the first half, it was defender Bobby Burling who would open the scoring. A failed clearance fell to Burling at the top of the D.C. box and he buried a low shot past goalkeeper Bill Hamid to give Colorado the 1-0 lead in the 28th minute.
Burling’s shot would be the only one on target for the Rapids in the first half, but it was enough to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
United would step up their attacking effort in the second half, beginning with a left-footed attempt by Alvaro Saborio in the 50th minute that was blocked by Burling.
Hamid also made some acrobatic plays to keep United in it and those plays would pay off, allowing DC the chance to equalize in the 87th minute. Fabian Espindola sent in a cross off a clever set play that would find the head of Birnbaum, who powered a header past goalkeeper Clint Irwin and Moor to even the score at 1-1.
Despite a frenzied last-ditch effort by the Rapids’ attack, Colorado was unable to pull away with the full three points in the final minutes.
The Rapids will take to the road next Saturday to face another Eastern Conference opponent in Toronto FC (2 pm ET on MLS LIVE/TSN1,4).
D.C. United will return to action at RFK Stadium next Tuesday to face Arabe Unido in a CONCACAF Champions League group stage match (8 pm ET; FS2) and they will remain there to face Columbus Crew SC (7 pm ET; MLS LIVE) on Saturday to play their 30th match of the regular season campaign.