Three home points down, six to go. We've already made it clear that the Rapids' easiest road to the playoffs will be to simply win out at home, and a gutsy performance in the second half by the team's offense -- Vicente Sanchez being the standout of the group -- earned them the first three of those points in a 2-1 win over a recently-surging FC Dallas side.
With rain and lightning keeping the game from going on until nearly an hour after the original kickoff time, the pitch was in a wet state, and the game started out slowly. Oscar Pareja chose to go once again with size and punch in his starting lineup, with Edson Buddle and Atiba Harris up top ahead of the Powers/Sturgis/Thomas midfield. With the cruddy conditions, the Rapids used their size and ability to hold the ball to their advantage, getting the best of the chances in the first half overall. Dallas, for their part, chose to sit back with a more technically-minded lineup (Fabian Castillo and Jackson instead of Blas Perez and Kenny Cooper) and go for punch on the counter-attack.
Predictably, Dallas sitting back and Colorado's lack of technical ability outside of Sanchez led to a rather boring first half that fizzled to a 0-0 scoreline by the end. So uneventful was that half that the referee already had his whistle in his mouth before the 45 had even expired, blowing it the second that it did.
Schellas Hyndman made the first sub of the match right at the start of what turned into a tactical ping-pong battle of a second half, bringing on some size and instinct in Perez. Oscar Pareja failed to counter his move, and the Rapids ended up giving up the first goal of the match as Dallas took advantage of their now bolstered forward corps. Colorado had been content with leaving the left flank open all match long and had rarely suffered for it, but a run by Jair Benitez in the 50th minute saw the Rapids suddenly tentative in the box with Perez's big presence thrown into the mix. There wasn't really much of a defensive breakdown involved, with all of the defenders covering men in the box, but Benitez's low and hard cross found David Ferriera before a burgundy jersey could clear it away.
Fortunately, the Rapids weren't deterred by this, as they may have been last season in a similar situation. Though Dallas turned the goal into a short spell of energy, the Rapids were able to keep them at arm's length and eventually brought in Gabriel Torres to add some extra attacking presence of their own into the mix. Once again, introducing a new attacker led to some chaos in the box, and the Rapids were able to take advantage to the tune of two goals to Dallas' one.
A missed clearance from the Dallas defense gave the Rapids a chance to equalize in the 59th minute, with Vicente Sanchez scoring his first goal in burgundy on a slip-and-slide effort. Only six minutes later, Sanchez repeated Benitez's trick from earlier as he stuffed a low and hard cross into a bit of chaos in front of the net. At first, it looked like Torres had earned his first Rapids goal, but eventually the credit was given to our old friend Owen Ghol. (With an assist from Matt Hedges.)
Pareja's tactics took a shift after that as both Edson Buddle and Nathan Sturgis went down with injuries. Deshorn Brown was brought in to add another speedy counter-attacking threat, while German Mera came in to add size in the back and allow the team to shift to a 5-4-1 formation. For the final 15 minutes, the ball was all Dallas', with the Rapids happy to concede the possession. It was Pareja who eventually won the tactical ping-pong, as his sizeable back line was able to force enough pressure to keep Dallas' finishing suspect. They managed to clear out a good number of chances as well, though there were rather loud shouts for a penalty after a questionable tackle by Marvell Wynne. It came to nothing though, and Dallas had only themselves to blame as a few decent looks late in the game went by the wayside.
Colorado's three points push them into third place in the Western Conference, with all the games in hand that other teams had starting to erode. Every team other than the Seattle Sounders and the Rapids in the West either lost or drew this weekend as well, meaning that our 'six more points at home' dream looks even more likely to turn into a playoff reality.