After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Colorado Rapids faltered late, conceding two second-half goals to Sporting Kansas City in a 2-2 draw. It marked the first point of the season for Anthony Hudson’s men, but it gives them a lot to work on as they prepare to host the Philadelphia Union on March 31.
Here are three things we learned from Colorado’s draw with SKC:
Hudson’s Rapids need to learn to close out games
Colorado’s draw with Sporting KC marked the second time in as many matches the Rapids conceded in extra time, dropping points along the way.
In the season opener, it was Chris Tierney’s free kick on the last play of the match that stole all three points for New England.
Against SKC, it was Diego Rubio’s goal in the 91st minute that changed Colorado’s fate from potentially earning three points, to splitting points with the visitors.
The Rapids have two games in hand after two bye weeks to start the season, and it’s still early days in a long 34-game season. But faltering in late-game moments and dropping points like the Rapids have the past two weeks can make or break an MLS club come playoff time. Remember the 2016 Rapids, who fell just two points short of a first-ever Supporters Shield?
The good news? It’s a problem Hudson has acknowledged and is working to address.
“To have gone two nil up and concede so late its similar in this last game against new England, we come in and we are disappointed, very disappointed but again as we have been saying this is a process in the sense of so many new players,” Hudson said.
Hudson’s players appear on board to fix the issue as well.
“I think it’s obvious – play 90 minutes, not 20 or 25,” said Rapids midfielder Enzo Martinez. “We need to play a complete game, a total game, and the style that we played for ninety minutes, I think we demonstrated in the first fifteen minutes what we can do together as a team.”
Joe Mason is the real deal
Again, it’s still early days and there’s still plenty of soccer left to be played in the MLS season, but based on what we saw Saturday, Joe Mason could prove to be one of the more valuable, if not underrated offseason signings for Colorado.
In his first MLS start, the Englishman was quick to get on the board for Colorado. It wasn’t just his ability to score, but the quality he displayed while doing so – dribbling around both Matt Besler and Tim Melia to place a cool finish. In doing so, he not only upstaged one of the better goalkeepers and defenders in MLS, he showed a calmness around goal Rapids fans have not seen for some time.
It also shows that maybe, wearing No. 10 for the Colorado Rapids might not be so cursed after all.
“He compliments me very well and we’re both players who want to score goals,” said Rapids striker Dominique Badji. “We both got on the score sheet today and we plan on doing that for a lot of games coming forward.”
Having trained for just under two weeks at altitude, Mason will likely get better in the long term. He’s determined to.
“I’m still adjusting to the way the manager wants to play and I felt I could have done a few things better tonight,” Mason said. “I’m not as fit as I’d like to be at the moment, but I’m getting there.”
Tim Howard still has it, but needs help
At 38-years-old and the only designated player ‘keeper in the league, the value of Tim Howard is a topic of constant debate in MLS circles. But performances like the one against SKC are the kind that prove Howard’s worth.
“What can I tell you, he kept us in the game. He took out five or six clear goals. My respects goes out to him,” said Rapids defender Edgar Castillo. “But we cannot have that happen. We have to find the game. We can’t stay at 2-0 and drop back. We have to go finish.”
With seven saves in the match – the majority coming in the second half — Howard not only preserved a lead for most of the game, but preserved a point. SKC could have very easily taken home all three in a strong second half performance.
“Without his saves tonight, you know we probably would’ve lost that game,” said Rapids defender Tommy Smith. “We know how good he is. I think everyone knows how good he is. He’s been putting up those kinds of performances all year.”
But with 20 shots total from the visitors, including 13 in the second half, there’s clear signs that the defenders in front of Howard need to get on the same page.
Again, it’s a fault that the Rapids are working to acknowledge and address. Of course, with a revamped backline and a new system under Hudson, it will take some time to gel.
“Obviously, it’s still early days and partnerships take a while to develop, but we got along well enough to develop,” said of his relationship with fellow centerback Danny Wilson. “We get along well enough off the pitch, I’m sure performances both personally and collectively will improve going forward.”