COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – After a three-week international break, the Colorado Rapids looked to continue their momentum atop both the Western Conference and Supporters' Shield standings.
For Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who has witnessed his team produce late-night magic at home in numerous performances this season, it was a sign that his team has learned one of the game’s most important lessons.
“Winning is a skill,” Mastroeni explained. “You’ve got to learn how to do it. It doesn’t come easy.”
A first half which saw little offense generated between the two sides was highlighted by a solid performance from Rapids midfielder Marlon Hairston. Hairston produced both of Colorado’s on target chances in the opening stanza and produced another threatening opportunity with a key pass to Kevin Doyle in the 37th minute.
“I think Marlon was really bright,” Mastroeni said of Hairston’s performance. “ It’s something we’ve been working on: being aggressive, looking forward and taking people on. He made a lot of good runs in the first half and drove the guys forward in the second half. It was really good to see.”
It appeared Colorado would finally find a break in the 56th minute, after an apparent hand ball in the box by Chicago defender Jonathan Campbell, but no call would be made by head referee Juan Guzman. Nevertheless, Colorado would indeed find the opening goal a minute later. Weaving through defenders, Doyle trickled a shot past Sean Johnson to give the Rapids a 1-0 lead.
It wouldn’t be enough however, with Fire Homegrown Joey Calistri scoring a late equalizer in the 81st minute. But a flurry of attacking subs by Mastroeni, including the introduction of Pappa in the 83rd minute, led to Colorado regaining the lead, with Pappa scoring the game-winner, helped by a deflection off of Campbell.
“That’s just Marco being Marco: one eye on ball and the other eye on the goal,” Mastroeni said. “He comes in and changes the game.”
The Rapids remain undefeated at home, but the solid effort by Chicago was indicative of the respect opponents are starting to have for the Rapids, according to midfielder Micheal Azira.
“When you lead the table, teams are happy to get out of here with a point,” Azira said. “In the second half we said, ‘No guys, this is our home.”