VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Colorado Rapids extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches with a tenacious performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday evening, coming back from behind twice to claim a huge point on the road.
Colorado dominated possession throughout the match and even with the need for Axel Sjoberg's late heroics, they may feel unlucky not to come away with all three points.
Trailing at the half, a storming second-half display saw them tie things up through Kevin Doyle, have a shot cleared off the line, suffer an ejection for Eric Miller and give up a late penalty kick, before the 10 men left standing claimed a draw with Sjoberg's header five minutes into stoppage time.
"The game of soccer is riddled with different movements that have you riding an emotional rollercoaster," head coach Pablo Mastroeni told reporters after the match. "For a good part of the 70 minutes, I thought we played some of our best stuff all year. We were moving the ball well, defended well, didn't let them get into a rhythm, created some good opportunities on goal.
"The red card obviously changes the game. At that point, momentum shifts, they have a good run of play, but I think overall a draw might be a fair result."
Colorado's excellent run of form in the first half of the season has caught many by surprise, but Mastroeni didn't see this comeback performance as any kind of statement to the rest of the league.
"We don't do it for anyone else," Mastroeni said. "We do it because we want to win. We do it because we believe in the direction of the organization. We believe in the vision of the club. We do it because this is our livelihood and we want to do something special.
"Tonight's performance is unlike any other we've had on the road this year. We've been down quite a bit on the road this year, but there's something special about this group that believe that we're going to get a result. … Credit to those guys to really fight hard for each other."
Mastroeni says the buy-in he's received from everyone at the club has helped them turn around the team's fortunes and make them real contenders this season.
"We set up in the preseason to really make an impact in the way we view ourselves, in the hope that we play to that standard and the people outside view us the same way," Mastroeni said. "We spent a lot of time in the preseason really building the type of culture that we feel will be successful in this league.
"And when I say 'we,' I made it a point in the preseason to really give ownership to the players and build a culture that is player-led, player-owned and coach-guided. They've taken it on. They realize that this is their careers. They've set up all their extra work. They're committed to really making a difference in the club's history."