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Game Recap: Philadelphia Union 2, Colorado Rapids 1

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The Rapids started off right, but would be undone by lackluster attacking and questionable refereeing.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Philadelphia Union Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Uneven refereeing and youthful inexperience combined to sink the Rapids on the road against the Philadelphia Union, as they lost, 2-1. Colorado took the early lead but conceded a hand ball in the box that resulted in a Union goal off a successfully converted penalty kick by CJ Sapong. The Union would pull ahead in the 75th minute off a foul outside of the box. Haris Medunjanin took the free kick, the Rapids wall failed to jump, and the score was 2-1. And that’s how it ended.

The Rapids took a 1-0 early, as the Union reacted slowly to a long, perfect pass from Axel Sjoberg to Kevin Doyle. Doyle fed the ball to Caleb Calvert, streaking into space. Philly had five defenders in proximity, but none closed down Calvert, and he laced a perfect shot from 20 yards out past Union keeper Andre Blake.

The Rapids got that goal in only the 15th minute, but preceded to play deep and defend for the remainder of the half, and into the second as well. The Rapids engaged in slow play, occasional time wasting, and a general desire to kill off the game on the road.It would come back to haunt them later.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were uneventful. The Rapids earned a free kick to the left side and 24 yards out in the 64th minute. Kevin Doyle’s free kick struck the crossbar and bounced out. Things got weird from there.

In the 66th minute a Union attack made its way into the Rapids box. An errant pass bounced into the path of Kortne Ford as he was falling. Ford fell, then rolled, with the ball underneath him. Referee Jose Carlos Rivero whistled for hand ball in the box. On the ensuing penalty kick, CJ Sapong fired the ball to the left as Rapids Keeper Tim Howard dove to the right, and the score was leveled at 1-1.

Just two minutes later, the Rapids would play a ball into the Union corner for Calvert, who was knocked down near the end line. Calvert was slow to get up, and the Rapids called for the trainer. Referee Rivero warned, then yellow carded Calvert for time wasting and not relocating himself out of the field of play on his own. Calvert left. The game restarted. Calvert re-entered the game from the end line a few moments later. Rivero yanked a second yellow on Calvert for re-entering the field of play without his permission, and the young forward would record something of an ignoble hat trick: first MLS start, first MLS goal, first MLS red card. The Rapids would have to play with 10 men for the final 20 minutes.

Colorado, looking a bit flustered, tried to organize against the re-energized Union. On the attack, Josh Gatt fouled Alejandro Bedoya atop the box in the 75th minute. Ilsinho and Haris Medunjanin stood over the free kick from 26 yards out. The Rapids wall bit on Ilsinho’s fake kick just enough to let Medunjanin’s left footed free kick go uncontested, and Philadelphia would walk away winners.

Pablo Mastroeni certainly rolled the dice on playing a well-rotated squad, as the manager sat many of the ‘Pids regular starters that had featured in Colorado’s 3-0 loss to the Chicago Fire earlier in the week. Shkelzen Gashi, Dominique Badji, Jared Watts, and Dillon Powers all started the match on the bench. Meanwhile the Rapids had three MLS debutantes in the starting XI, as Sam Hamilton, Mike da Fonte, and Caleb Calvert all saw their first career MLS starts.

Questionable refereeing, a lack of focus, long spates of listlessness, and another loss. The 2017 season is starting to develop a pattern for the Colorado Rapids: go on the road, come home with zero points to show.