The Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution fought out a 1-1 draw despite New England having a man advantage for the final half hour of play.
The Rapids, playing their final home match of the year, came into the night in a fairly comfortable position. Third in the Western Conference with 39 points, a win on Saturday night would've gone a long way in helping Gary Smith's side secure a playoff spot. The Rapids came out in their new 3-5-2 formation with Conor Casey, the league's second leading scorer, and Omar Cummings spearheading the attack.
For New England, sitting just one point clear in the last playoff spot with three tough matches still on tap. But Steve Nicol was without a number of key players for Saturday's contest and chose to go with Nico Colaluca and Kheli Dube as his strike force with three changes in the midfield from the team that started Wednesday in DAllas, and Jay Heaps missing from the back line.
Colorado showed signs of life early on in the match. In just the third minute Omar Cummings swung in a dangerous cross from the right that found. Mehdi Ballouchy on the back stick. The midfielder could only win a corner, but on the ensuing set piece Julian Baudet won a header that forced Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis into a diving stop to keep the home side off the board.
New England also had a nice attacking move in the opening stages with Sainey Nyassi sliding a ball across the face of goal with Colaluca streaking down the middle channel. But the former Rapid couldn't get a touch on the ball and the danger was avoided.
The frantic pace continued for quite some time, but Reis' early save was really the only time either 'keeper was tested in the opening 20 minutes. In the 25th the Rapids finally tested him again. Jordan Harvey slashed in from the right and tried to slip a shot past Reis on the near post, but in the end the 'keeper smothered the shot rather easily.
In the 29th the match got the goal it was needing. New England's Kenny Mansally floated in a freekick from 40 yards out and Dube found enough space in the Rapids back line to pound home a header, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Only the woodwork kept Colorado from being level two minutes later. After a corner was cleared out of New England's box a second cross was whipped in as Baudet turned it toward goal with a little flick off his right boot. Reis looked a bit fooled, but the ball pinged off the post and out of play.
Cummings had the last good chance of the half after benefiting from a poor clearance and having a go from the top of the box, but the shot sailed high of the mark and the match would go to the break with the Revolution still clutching a 1-0 advantage.
Former Revolution star Pat Noonan was introduced into the match for Colorado at the match got back underway and the midfielder helped spring an attack just moments in with a ball that sent Cummings in behind the New England line. Cummings blasted a left-footed effort wide of goal, but the Rapids were again off to a fast start.
In the 56th the home side got their breakthrough. Cummings did well to hold the ball in the box and was dragged down by Revolution defender Emmanuel Osei. The ref pointed to the spot and Casey did the damage, calmly placing his spot kick in the lower right corner of the goal.
The high of the goal soon turned into a low as Baudet, who had been dangerous on every set play for Colorado, was sent off for swinging his arm at Dube after a challenge.
The Rapids didn't seem to mind being down a man and in the 66th they were unlucky not to take the lead. Kosuke Kimura did well down the right flank and sent a well placed cross to the back post where Casey had to extend to get a head on it. The big striker wasn't able to put his header on goal however, and though the ball came back into the middle of the box New England was able to clear the danger.
Both sides continued to press the pace and the match turned into a very open affair with seemingly every player on the pitch trying to slip into the attack. But even with the spaces opening up neither side could find much in the way of chances on goal.
New England defender Darrius Barnes was one of the major reasons for Colorado's lack of chances. A last ditch sliding tackle in the 85th stopped what looked sure to be a goal scoring chance for Cummings.
The defense finally broke down in the 88th and Casey slid Cumming in on goal with a nifty little through ball. Cummings went for power instead of placement and though he had Reis beat the crossbar was once again to the 'keeper's rescue.
The last ditch efforts of both teams would come up short and they would have to settle for a share of the spoils.
Allen Ramsey, Goal.com
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