June 20, 2012; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids defender Hunter Freeman (2) runs into San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) during the first half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
A slight drizzle began to sprinkle Commerce City right after the final whistle blew, which was fitting. It was as if the gods themselves were looking down, sobbing and shaking their heads in disgust at the final 12 minutes of ball that the Rapids played against the San Jose Earthquakes.
It didn't start out all that bad, really. The first half was a classic display of what Oscar Pareja's 4-3-3 should look like. Conor Casey was causing space to be opened up top, giving Martin Rivero and Edu loads of space to wreak havoc. In something of a chain reaction, the Quakes started playing very physically in order to keep the Rapids from going forward at times, which resulted in three yellow cards and a batch of fouls for Colorado.
Of course, it wasn't all roses.
Defensively, it was a little less held together. Marvell Wynne made his triumphant return but looked a step slower than usual, while Hunter Freeman and Luis Zapata were doing more on the offensive side of the ball than the defensive. Drew Moor was able to hold the middle well enough as we expect from him, but the Quakes had occasional bursts of offense set through Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski that forced Matt Pickens into some good saves, with one specific save on Lenhart putting him into the save of the week realm.
Of course, with Wynne back the defense was a lot more stout than usual and even as San Jose got a lot of chances, most of them weren't very dangerous.
It was the Rapids who ended up scoring first when Hunter Freeman found himself with the ball along the touchline and let loose a lovely cross that met Brian Mullan's head. Backup keeper David Bingham couldn't do a thing about it and the Rapids had a lead that they were able to hold for most of the match.
Then, we hit the 83rd minute. Hunter Freeman put the ball in the wrong net as Alan Gordon smacked it off the defender during a mad scramble in the box. Not much that anyone could do about it, just showing how lucky the Rapids have been this season.
Here's a fun statistic for you, the Rapids are now 2-7-1 in games where they let their opponent score at all. Be it a single goal or four, the Rapids have done terribly when they've let their opposition put one in the net. The sense of impending doom after Freeman's own goal might have stemmed from that. It also didn't help that Omar Cummings, coming in for Conor Casey, was unable to do much of anything useful, looking like the Omar Cummings of 2011 with all of his fancy failed passing attempts at points where he should have shot. Despite several good looks, the finishing just wasn't there for a second goal.
Eventually, it all came down to Alan Gordon breaking through the defense for a 1v1 with Matt Pickens nearing the end of stoppage time. Now, Pickens had the angle and Gordon didn't have great control of the ball at the time but for some reason, Matt decided the best course of action would be to race out and slide towards Gordon.
Here's another fun statistic for you, Matt Pickens has never stopped a penalty kick in his Rapids career. The only time that a PK has avoided the back of his net was when Columbus' Brian Carroll put one a mile over his bar in the 2010 playoffs. He always seems to do the exact same frustrating thing too, guessing the right direction but somehow whiffing it anyway. Well, that trip on Gordon just happened to be a good enough dive by the Quakes man to fool the referee.
Ball game, courtesy of Chris Wondolowski.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jon, the guy who was standing next to me at the game. He made a pretty nifty catch when an errant shot came into the terraces. (This is a fancy way of saying that I don't think anyone deserves to be called 'man of the match' after that.)
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Matt Pickens had a monstrous match before his foolish mistake at the end, but that single mistake cost the Rapids a point. I know, I know. It was a dive. Still, a terrible decision to come out and try to attack Gordon in the first place when we all know he could have made a save on it had Gordon gotten a shot off. He's had a great year and could still make a gasp at an all-star berth but everyone has a stinker of a moment at some point and that was Matt's.