The Colorado Rapids squeaked by the Chicago Fire on Saturday night by a score of 2-1 thanks to a gift of a goal from the Chicago defense and some late game heroics from Marco Pappa. Not the ideal result for a team atop the MLS table playing at home against one of the league's bottom feeders, but a result that netted all three available points and pushed the Rapids past the thirty point mark after just fifteen games, the quickest they have reached that milestone in team history.
With Shkelzen Gashi and Jermaine Jones on international duty, I was shocked that Pablo Mastroeni did not start either Dillon Serna or the recently available Marco Pappa, who finally made his long-awaited return from injury. Instead, the Rapids started a midfield three of Luis Solignac, Dillon Powers, and Marlon Hairston. The Rapids struggled to create many scoring opportunities against a Fire defense that seemed hellbent on keep at least nine players behind the ball at all times. With the score tied 0-0 at halftime, I figured we would see a half-time substitution, or at least a change around the 60' mark if the Rapids continued to struggle.
In seemingly typical fashion we did not see any substitutions until just after the 80 minute mark. Following Chicago's equalizer in the 81st, Mastroeni finally chose Dominque Badji to bring some energy into the Rapids midfield. Over the next four minutes he sent in Pappa and Serna to further jump-start the Rapids offense. The Rapids offense played with renewed vigor, which culminated in Pappa's 89th minute winner. We know Mastroeni has a tendency to be very cautious with his use of substitutions, often waiting the majority of the game before beginning his rotations or even letting some go unused. Less conservative rotations will be needed as the season rolls along to ensure everybody is fresh and healthy come playoff time. In addition, while Saturday's approach may be enough to sneak past a team like Chicago, we cannot afford to field an XI void of dynamic playmakers against a team like say, the LA Galaxy, who the Rapids happen to play at the Stubhub Center in Los Angeles tonight.