After a dominating run of play by Colorado for 80 minutes, being a man down for the final 15 ended up being just 15 seconds too much for the Colorado Rapids to snag all three points at home in a pivotal Western Conference showdown.
The Rapids thought they’d have the return of their full squad as they took after the Houston Dynamo, minus Captain Jack Price, who missed his game in a row with a chest injury after a couple of disciplinary suspensions served mid-week. However, a late-week back injury kept scoring leader Diego Rubio out of the lineup, nervously shaking up the attack. Storms rolled through before kickoff, but temps cooled and allowed Colorado to run at the visitors from the opening whistle.
A signature set-piece looking for Lalas Abubakar running to the far post was the first good look on goal for the Rapids in the 8th minute. The cross from the right side was well struck by the Colorado defender but went into the side-netting from close range but a tough angle.
Colorado keeper William Yarbrough then turned around just after the restart and kept the scoreline clean with an excellent save low to his near post from a Houston ball over the top – the back and forth game was on.
The Abubakar-to-the-far-post set-piece again looked the preferred point of attack on freekicks for Colorado. The same play was even closer to an opening goal in the 17th minute. The ball was nodded down right in front of goal, bobbled around a bit, and finally sent out of touch by Colorado for a goal kick.
The first half saw Colorado’s backline look very focused and attentive to Houston’s attackers. An issue as of late, has been allowing early goals for the Rapids, but in the first 40 minutes, Abubakar, Danny Wilson, Keegan Rosenberry, Lucas Estevez, as well as Collen Warner stayed in great shape and really communicated well to stifle much from getting to Yarbrough.
Colorado came close yet again just before halftime in the 40th minute after Jonathan Lewis carried dangerously deep into the Houston area. His whistled ball just missed the toe of Gyasi Zardes on the goalmouth and went wide of the far post keeping the Rapids frustrated despite dominating thus far.
Yarbrough looked to close out the half with the Rapids defending a dangerous freekick from thirty yards out in the center at the 44th-minute mark. Will dove to his right, parrying the tough shot away from danger as the crowd breathed a sigh of relief and cheered for the keeper.
Just before the halftime whistle, Rapids midfielder Felipe Gutierrez had a look straight off the training ground as Estevez centered a sitter to the penalty spot of Houston. Gutierrez beat the defender to the ball for a blast, but it, unfortunately, was driven right to the chest of Dynamo keeper Steve Clark.
Zardes kept the set-piece danger on for Colorado as they lined up for an early corner kick in the 47th minute. His driven header sailed just high and left but sent the warning to Houston. Just two minutes later, Houston couldn’t keep Abubakar from his goal at the far post on his third attempt from that play. A corner kick drifted over everyone from the right but was run down by Estevez on the left. His ensuing cross was right on the foot of Lalas, who coolly knocked inside the far post and the 1-0 lead.
Colorado kept the pressure on Houston, not allowing them to put possession in attack together, as Lewis was sprung on multiple runs down the left flank, and the Rapids could bring numbers into the box, making the Dynamo stay home and honest.
Things were cruising along reasonably well as Houston tried to make an impact with late subs. Then, in the 80th minute, things got a bit dicey for Colorado as Bryan Acosta was shown a second yellow card for a tackle and was sent off for the night. A nervy end was on the books as play got a bit theatrical. Corey Baird pushed Abubakar 2-handed in the back before heading in a goal that was rightfully disallowed. Next, Michael Barrios was shown yellow for an embellished flop by Houston’s Quintero as Barrios exited the field in the 86th minute.
The last-ditch defending finally gave way for Colorado 5 minutes into stoppage time as Sebastian Ferriera pounced on a loose ball in front of the Rapids 18yd box. He ripped his shot to the right side of an outstretched Yarbrough, and two heartbreaking points were lost for Colorado in the 1-1 draw.