That was the word of the night for both teams that took the pitch at RFK Stadium on Saturday night. It began with Charlie Davies, who with Bob Bradley as one of the almost 13,000 in attendance had a chance to show that he was well on his way back to being USMNT fit. His night, however, would end prematurely as he limped off the field in the 33rd minute with a hamstring injury. Davies had looked fit but like the rest of the Black-and-Red had trouble adjusting the Colorado’s high line. His best scoring chance saw him receive a great pass from Josh Wolff (who also came off in the first half due to injury) but last touch was too hard and resulted in the ball going out of play instead of giving DC an early lead.
Frustrated was Colorado Rapids coach Gary Smith, who like his DC counterpart Ben Olsen felt his team deserved three points and was hindered by some questionable officiating. The first goal of the match came in the 23rd minute when Drew Moore scored his first goal of the season off a Jamie Smith free kick; the ball deflected around the box and landed at his feet with a lane to shoot past Bill Hamid. The controversial goal came in the 62nd minute when Chris Pontius was seemingly tripped up by Kosuke Kimura just inside the Rapids’ box. Referee Terry Vaughn pointed to the spot and Pontius tied the game with a sharp strike that fooled Matt Pickens. Complicating the call was a no-call five minutes earlier when Joseph Ngwenya, who had come on for Wolff, went down in the box after replays showed some contact with a Colorado defender.
“I’m frustrated that we didn’t take all three [points],” said Rapids coach Gary Smith after the game. “The circumstances surrounding their goal and how they got it… we’re disappointed, because when we all look back on it it wasn’t a penalty”
Ben Olsen was equally angry after the game not only about the Ngwenya call but about a Colorado yellow card in the first half. Just before the half McCarty looked to have sprung free on a breakaway near midfield, but was taken down by Drew Moore. Despite having a clear path to the goal, Vaughn only cautioned Moore, leading to an angry confrontation with DCU captain Dax McCarty on the pitch and Olsen at halftime. “I don’t want to go into specifics about it, but he [Terry Vaughn] had a bad night. I could be wrong, but I could be right”.
Despite the low score and, especially in the second half, very slippery pitch the game was a back and forth affair. While DC had most of the possession and created more scoring chances, Colorado game plan for the most part worked well to contain DC’s scoring threat. With basically their fourth string forward pairing starting tonight in Akpan and Amarikwa, and knowing DC’s weakness on set pieces, Colorado played a high backline and created turnovers in the midfield to create the occasional chance. DC was called offsides six times and realistically could have been called for more, and generally struggled to adjust to the Rapids’ strategy. In their first meeting, Colorado outlasted DC and won easily 4-1; even though the score was closer this time Ben Olsen did not like his team’s effort: “Do we think we are better than we are because we had two [good] games, so now we can go out and forget about the commitment, the fight, all the little things that got us the results we had in the last two games… it was everybody that wasn’t sharp. Guys were slipping, they didn’t have the right footwear all, all these little things were not good enough in the first 45, and essentially cost us two points.”
At the end of the night, this result was a good one for Colorado and a decent one for DC. The Rapids can now return home after an undefeated road trip and play three out of the next four at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. They are slowly getting healthier, as Conor Casey returned to the bench tonight and came on as a sub in the 66th minute. For the home team, this was an improvement on their 4-1 loss plus the young backline again played well. They caught some lucky breaks at times but Bill Hamid continues to look very good in goal. A key factor is the injuries to Charlie Davies and Josh Wolff; if both can come back relatively soon then this team can continue to compete for a playoff spot. Extended injuries, however, could severely test the club.