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Late heroics from Johnny Russell help SKC earn 1-1 draw at Colorado

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On a brisk St. Patrick’s Day evening, the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City both found a stroke of luck with goals, but nothing separated them in a 1-1 draw at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

After taking a 1-0 lead on a second-half goal from Diego Rubio, Colorado dropped points, going down a man before SKC forward Johnny Russell scored late to earn a 1-1 draw for the visitors.

“It’s hard because it almost feels like a loss at the end,” Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson said postgame. “It’s feels like two points dropped.”

SKC came into the match on short rest having played a midweek CCL match against Panama’s Independiente. Sunday’s match also marked the sixth match in an 18-day span for the Peter Vermes-led side.

Early chances from Colorado put the visitors on the back foot, but SKC weathered the storm to keep the score level.

Kansas City’s best opportunity to take a first-half lead came in the 22nd minute when Felipe Gutierrez’s free kick from just outside the box went just wide of the mark. This led to a dangerous counterattack from the Rapids, but attempts from Nicolas Mezquida and Diego Rubio failed to hit the mark.

In the 43rd minute, Kansas City was presented with another golden opportunity as Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard was drawn off his line by Krisztian Nemeth, who played it back to Roger Espinoza for a chipped opportunity. Colorado avoided danger however, as the effort was just above the crossbar.

As the two sides entered halftime deadlocked and scoreless, Colorado had outshot the visitors 6-4 while SKC has swung possession in their favor with 62.3 percent of the ball in the first half.

After some more back and forth play to open the second half, it was Colorado who would strike first blood. A mis-timed backpass from Matt Besler was unable to be collected at the feet of SKC ‘keeper Tim Melia, and an opportunistic Rubio collected the ball to bury the shot and put Colorado up 1-0 in the 54th minute.

“I’m so pleased because Diego has been working so hard,” Hudson said of the goal. “He earned it and is going to score a lot of goals for us.”

The Rapids’ gaffer credited Colorado’s constant high press for the goal.

“I thought we had many situations during the game from their goal kicks where they were kicking the ball to us or kicking it out of play,” he explained. “The hard thing is to keep doing it consistently.”

Things got chippy in the late stages as head referee Allen Chapman issued seven second half yellow cards between the sides including five for unsporting behavior. Rapids midfielder Johan Blomberg was amongst those booked, and with a second yellow for time wasting in the 87th minute, was sent off.

“He’s going to be disappointed, but these things happen,” Hudson said of Blomberg’s sendoff.

In the ensuing run of play, SKC forward Johnny Russell equalized for the visitors, burying a free kick to level the match at 1-1 a minute later.

Despite dropping points at home, Hudson saw a lot of positives from his side.

“We cannot take away from the performance the players put in today,” he said. “[SKC] are a fantastic team, but for me, for 90-plus minutes we’d been the better team. We played tonight as a team. The players fought for each other. We were brave, we were positive, we were aggressive.”

Sunday’s result marked the second-straight road point at Colorado for the visitors in as many visits to Commerce City. Having weathered a heavy portion of its schedule, SKC will now have two weeks of preparation before it faces Montreal at home March 30. Colorado will travel to Frisco, Texas next Saturday to face Western Conference rivals FC Dallas.




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