The Colorado Rapids paid what might possibly be their last visit to Columbus and MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night against Crew SC. After waves of pressure early, Columbus broke through for the opening goal as Federico Higuain slotted through a ball to Gyasi Zardes for the easy finish and a 1-0 lead. Colorado responded just under 10 minutes later as Shkëlzen Gashi’s free kick caught Zack Steffen and the Crew defense off guard, leveling the match at 1-1 before the half.
In the second half, a knee to the back of Pedro Santos by Deklan Wynne in the 51st minute resulted in a red card and Colorado playing with 10-men for the remainder of the match. Shortly after Wynne was sent off, Columbus took advantage, with Higuain scoring the go-ahead goal in the 57th minute. Crew SC would hold on to the 2-1 lead, and the win, solidifying their fourth-place standing in the Eastern Conference.
Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s 2-1 loss to Columbus:
Controversy in Columbus
Following some controversial moments in the game, both sides found themselves in disagreement with head referee Allan Chapman.
For Columbus, the fast restart and lack of an audible whistle on the free Kick by Gashi which resulted in Colorado’s goal was a point of contention for Crew SC head coach Greg Berhalter.
“You know, I talked at length to the referee after the game, and his interpretation was that [the Colorado Rapids] have the right to play it quickly, and from my viewpoint, they didn’t play it quickly,” Berhalter said of the play. “We were getting set up, everyone was getting set up, then [the referee] told us to backup, and once that happens, to me, then you have to restart with a whistle.”
Colorado was likewise in disagreement with the decision to send off Wynne in the second half.
“The game completely changes with the sending off [of Deklan Wayne], it completely killed the game,” said Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson. “We are slightly confused, everyone really, the home bench, but the fourth official told us five times it wasn’t a red card. If anything, it was a yellow card at best, that completely changed the game. This is such an important game and the reasoning wasn’t clear to us, wasn’t given to us but the fourth official told me five times it wasn’t a red card and he would’ve never given it.”
Despite the loss, Rapids captain and goalkeeper Tim Howard reached a season milestone on Saturday night, surpassing 100 saves on the year. Howard’s season total of 106 saves currently ranks third in MLS behind Evan Bush (116) and David Bingham (107).
“I do not question myself, but a lot of other people do,” Howard told reporters post-match. “It has been good for me, it keeps me pushing forward. I get my head down and I work, I know how to do the right things and hopefully that will keep going.”
100 saves is an admirable achievement, but it’s also perhaps indicative of a leaky defense. Among the top three ‘keepers in saves, only Bush’s team currently sits above the playoff red line, with the Impact holding on desperately to the sixth-seed in the East.
Playing for Pride
The Colorado Rapids were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last weekend, so the emphasis moving forward is to play for pride, and for jobs.
“We do not want to let ourselves go,” said Rapids midfielder Jack Price. “We have a lot of pride in that dressing room. We feel that we work hard for each other. That’s the minimum, we want to work hard for the club and the fans as that is out job. I am proud of the staff and the players as we dug in deep tonight as it was a tough one for us to take. People could have lost their heads out there with the decision (red card), but we kept our heads. We worked hard for each other, but we are disappointed that we did not come away with anything.”
To be fair, the Rapids looked well positioned to earn a road point before the red card, and snapped their four-game goalless streak heading into the match. Hudson believes his team is still building things the right way.
“I think you saw clearly what we’re all about, what we’re trying to build,” said the Rapids manager. “We know exactly where we’re headed. I have complete, 100 percent firm belief about where we’re taking this team, what we’re doing with it and the areas we need to fix. Tonight, complete injustice with the complete change of the game and as the fourth official told me several times, it was just that.”