Colorado Rapids forward Dominique Badji (14) defends as Orlando City SC defender Amro Tarek (3) passes the ball in the second half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids’ seven-game home unbeaten run is over. Second-half goals from Cristian Higuita and Yoshimar Yotún helped visiting Orlando City SC (5-1-2, 17 points) steal a 2-1 victory from the Rapids (2-2-3, 9 points) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Sunday afternoon.
It marked another frustrating result for Colorado, which has been in position to earn points in each of its three losses of 2018 only to have the match slip away.
The Rapids again scored the opening goal. Dominique Badji scored his fifth goal of the season in the 26th minute, only to see that 1-0 lead evaporate in the second half.
“I think it was such a good start,” Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson said postgame. “We played that well, scored a good goal. Like I’ve said before, scoring changed the mentality slightly. It was a positive start to the game, but we come in a bit disappointed because this is a game where we should’ve taken points away.”
The match also marked a reunion between Rapids midfielder Enzo Martinez and Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis, who drafted Martinez during his tenure at Real Salt Lake (2005-07). Martinez made his mark off the bat, assisting on Badji’s goal while also contributing defensively with three recoveries, two tackles and one clearance in the first half.
Yet despite a strong individual performance overall, Martinez also expressed disappointment in the result.
“Obviously the first 30 minutes, we stuck to the game plan,” said Martinez. “After that, I don’t know what changed. We got away from that and they scored on us.”
At the end of the first half, Colorado and Orlando were level in shots (6), but the Rapids had more on-target efforts (4) while Orlando controlled 56 percent of the game’s possession. The Lions’ lone on-target effort came in the 40th minute, but the Sacha Kljestan shot was punched away by Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath, standing in for a suspended Tim Howard.
In the second half, the visitors turned the tide in their favor, producing the first three shots on target of the stanza, including Cristian Higuita’s 52nd-minute equalizer for Orlando. Higuita’s shot from the top of the box beat the diving MacMath to level the score at 1-1.
“The ball got played in to Higuita, I got screened by Tommy [Smith] and it deflected off of him,” MacMath said of the play. “I saw the ball late and couldn’t get my feet going.”
After successive yellow cards were issued to Colorado players Bismarck Boateng (60’), Edgar Castillo (67’), Deklan Wynne (68’) and Martinez (72’), Orlando was awarded a penalty opportunity in the 77th minute. OCSC midfielder Yoshimar Yotún buried the effort to give the visitor’s their first lead of the game at 2-1.
“The game started to get out of our hands and we went away from the game plan we had going in,” Badji explained.
Compounding the Rapids’ problems were injury concerns with Boateng (head) and Shkëlzen Gashi (groin), who both left the game in the second half.
“We were forced into those two changes,” explained Hudson.
Nonetheless, Colorado had multiple opportunities to equalize in the waning minutes, including a pair of efforts from Dillon Serna, one in the 80th minute that was just over the bar, and another in extra time (90’+2) that was blocked by Orlando defender Mohammed Al-Munir.
Following the loss, Colorado now drops to ninth in the Western Conference table with seven games played heading into next weekend’s road trip at Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (5-2-2, 17 points).
With late-game lapses continuing to plague the 2018 Rapids, mental acuity will continue to remain a focus for Anthony Hudson’s side in the coming week of preparation.
“I don’t know what it was, but we just get away from [the game plan],” said Badji. “I think we just need to stay tuned in. It’s easy to stay tuned in for 70-80 minutes, but for that full 90, we need to work on that. It’s those minutes where we need to grind it out. That’s where we need to buckle down and get it. That’s not something we can practice. That’s something that comes from within.”