Colorado came into this match looking for a point at least against a tough New York Red Bulls team and they got it in one of the most exciting matches that the Rapids have been involved in all season, a 2-2 thriller. As always happens in the best football matches, it was an unlikely hero that provided the two goals for a suddenly competent Colorado offense, Jeff Larentowicz. The Rapids draw extended their unbeaten streak to five games, perhaps an unimpressive stretch but still a stretch in which they've gone 1-0-4.
On incredibly short rest of two days and featuring a squad that was missing their leading goalscorer Jamie Smith, the Rapids were forced to get a bit creative with this match. The result was an interesting 4-5-1 that lined up in a 4-1-4-1 sort of fashion rather than the 4-3-2-1 sort of style that Gary Smith ran for the first half of last season. Andre Akpan took the spot up top with Conor Casey still not completely match-fit after a few appearances against DC and Toronto coming off a tough hamstring injury. Missing Smith, Ross Labeaux got the start in the midfield up on the offensive four, while Wells Thompson and Sanna Nyassi were left to man the wings.The game began with a large run of possession for New York, which led to a couple of early chances. The Rapids quickly settled down and began making long runs of their own, with the occasional good chance coming through Andre Akpan, who once again early on seemed the only Rapids player who wasn't afraid to just put the ball toward the net no matter how close in he was. In the 27th minute, Akpan's relentless runs forward finally paid off as he got knocked down hard just outside the box and was rewarded with a terrible penalty called by referee Jorge Gonzalez, one of the rare times that a call has been incorrect in the Rapids favor this season!
The penalty was taken by Jeff Larentowicz with Conor Casey not in the game, and though his shot was stopped by Greg Sutton, but he allowed a rebound right back to Jeff's foot and Larentowicz tapped it into the open net with no problems. Only minutes later, New York took advantage of the still-celebrating Colorado side and raced down the field as Thierry Henry stuck the ball past a stunned stone statue of Matt Pickens. In the 32nd minute, the Rapids got a free kick that Jeff Larentowicz once again smashed brilliantly into the low corner of the net to give the Rapids a 2-1 lead but New York struck back only a minute later as Luke Rodgers took advantage of another Pickens mistake to put in an open net header.
At the end of the first half it was 2-2 in a hard back and forth fight. The Rapids were getting killed in possession 65-35% but had six shots on goal to New York's four. The second half started with no real changes in formation or players for either side, but featured a Colorado team that for the first time in ages looked not only offensively able, but offensively confident. Jeff Larentowicz, already with a brace, looked to get a hat trick several times. Thompson and Nyassi both created good runs, while Nyassi rattled the crossbar with a good chance from 30 yards out.
The game didn't feature any more goals, but the Rapids made a late rush of attempts after Conor Casey got subbed in. Joesph Nane (!) of all people made a beautiful pass threaded through two defenders to get the ball to a wide open Casey, and only a fantastic Sutton save prevented Casey's first goal of the year there. Quincy Amarikwa had another of his blah performances as a late sub, taking his only chance of the game and sending it 10 yards wide from outside the box instead of making a move on the oncoming goalkeeper. The game's stoppage time ran out there and the Rapids were able to settle with a point.
The draw today gives the Rapids seven points in their last five games, not bad considering the injury issues and the extended road trip in the middle of that stretch. Colorado will next face the weak Sporting Kansas City side on the tail end of their never-ending road game as their stadium continues to be built. Another game where they should get a point, but for now let's just enjoy the fact that we've managed a tough draw in a place where a loss seemed assured before the match began.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jeff Larentowicz. Scoring against New York is no easy task, but scoring a brace against them is cause for celebration. Larentowicz has been the Rapids most consistant scorer on the road since we picked him up from New England and is quickly becoming the go to guy for set pieces above Jamie Smith.
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Matt Pickens. Both of those goals he allowed were preventable and although he made some good saves late in the game, some of them - like the late Rodgers shot he got a fingertip to - were also probably made harder due to bad positioning.