The three-game road trip is finally over, and after risking ruining their entire season, the Colorado Rapids salvaged three points against top of the table F.C. Dallas to jump right back into second place in the western conference.
With a short-handed lineup and lacking some of the more established offensive talents, the Rapids stole a game, rarely looking like the better team, but played tough defense and closed things down. Dallas hadn’t lost a game at home all year and after having finally created separation on the Rapids this month, Colorado is back on their heels with two games in hand.
The hero of the game was Dominique Badji, one of the few rays of hope in this dark and gloomy road-trip. The visitors got ahead and then closed things down, rarely even feeling much danger from a Dallas team that started off with its B-team but ended with its top dogs.
The first half was, at times, an ugly affair, a result of some of the missing stars in the game. Both teams chose to rest, or had to rest, some of their better players and the quality of play suffered. The home team was the only side to create any real danger in the first 45. One of the few top players in the game, Dallas forward Maximiliano Urruti, shot a ball high from a tough angle close in on goal and also spun to shoot just outside another time.
Colorado could only muster a few shots off target. Possession, especially of the quality kind, was a struggle early on for the Rapids. Mostly playing the ball from the back, the visitors looked sloppy at times with an unimpressive 71-percent passing accuracy in the first-half.
The Rapids didn’t just struggle with quality of possession but quantity as well, as Dallas dominated possession 61.5-percent, while also being outshot six-to-two.
As Pablo Mastroeni has done this season, he seemed to get a sense of purpose into his side coming out for the second half. Particularly in the first five minutes, Colorado looked more motivated to get forward and create danger, especially Dominique Badji.
On a quick throw in from Sebastian Le Toux off the left sideline, Badji took the ball, sliced towards the middle and left center back Walker Zimmerman in the dust. Right on the edge of the box, he ripped a low shot across his body placing it masterfully in the left corner, where Dallas could do nothing about it.
The play was so quick you would have missed it if you weren’t paying attention and Dallas seemed caught off guard. Badji’s speed was just too much to handle and the shot that keeps showing more promise paid off huge.
Just like that, a Rapids team that wasn’t playing its best and mostly just defending found the 1-0 lead at the 51st minute. The Rapids pressed on for the next ten minutes and then had to begin to close down the fort, clamping down for the last half hour of play.
Dallas put in Mauro Diaz and Micheal Barrios in the second half. Diaz especially created some danger for his side. Hardest of all was a wonderful assist to an open Atiba Harris, but Tim Howard was ready with a foot save, something that’s become his trademark in Colorado.
Dallas pressed as many men forward as they possibly could. They had seven corners to the Rapids three and pushed more and more guys into the box.
The Colorado defense held tough, blocking shots and throwing their bodies in the way, while Tim Howard protected the back with assurance.
As Dallas became more desperate, panicking seeing the clock wind down, their attacks became less dangerous and easier to suppress. The Rapids had no other goal scoring chance but didn’t need to as they rolled in subs and defended with ten men.
Kevin Doyle came on late in the game and seemed to hurt his ankle, forcing Mastroeni to almost clear his five-man (as opposed to the normal seven) bench. Doyle’s status, like the rest of the big money attackers, is a concern but, for now, the Rapids can enjoy being back in the top two with another clean sheet.