MLS titans battle to 1-1 draw in Colorado

Photo by John Babiak.

MLS titans battle to 1-1 draw in Colorado

Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — The top two teams in MLS lined up without their presumptive top players, but the Rapids and Union replacements challenged presumptions with a 1–1 draw on Saturday night.

After the final whistle, Union head coach Jim Curtain recounted a sumo-wrestling stalemate in the first half from depth players on both teams, followed by late-game drama from the substitutes.

“We respected Colorado a great deal. We didn’t fear them,” Curtain said. “Both teams are missing some key guys; that needs to be said as well. We got a little bit lucky that Jermaine [Jones] wasn’t here and [Shkëlzen] Gashi is having a great year as well, so we like to think we’re missing some guys too. Two strong teams having good years and I think you saw, especially in the first half, this kind of mirror image of each other.”

Union head coach Jim Curtain expected a battle with Colorado, and the 1–1 result reflected the mirror image of the teams. Photo by John Babiak.

Union head coach Jim Curtain expected a battle with Colorado, and the 1–1 result reflected the mirror image of the teams. Photo by John Babiak.

Stout defending and defensive shape from both sides limited real chances early in the game. Luis Solignac fired a close-range shot over the bar in the 33rd minute, and Zac MacMath looked to be on track for another shutout. But in the last 10 minutes of play, both teams found cracks in the armor.

At the hour mark, Curtain brought on Ilsinho for Sebastian Le Toux to spark his attack, and Pablo Mastroeni replaced Dillon Serna with Marlon Hairston for the same reason. Ilsinho showed his footwork on one right wing while Hairston earned Silver Platter honors on the Rapids’ right wing. Hairston delivered a half-dozen goal-scoring chances to multiple teammates, most notably Sam Cronin’s goal in the 87th minute.

“Box to box” usually refers to the penalty box, but for Cronin it means “six to six.” After clearing a Union attack with his heel following a retreating run, Cronin penetrated the Union box to score.

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Sam Cronin slips between Union defenders to score the opening goal off a Marlon Hairston cross on May 28, 2016. Photo by John Babiak.

“Just a couple of times I didn’t feel like we had enough guys in the box,” Cronin recalled of the late-game push. “So when Marlon [Hairston] got the ball I just made a hard run in there and he served a good ball in and I was fortunate that it went in.”

Unfortunately for Colorado, Curtain inserted Fabian Herbers as another spark-sub in the 71st minute. Herbers relentless ran at the Rapids defense, and in stoppage time he challenged Axel Sjöberg in the air in front of the goal. Herbers headed the ball square. Brian Carroll raced onto it and laced a near-post equalizer in the last minute of action.

Photos by John Babiak

Look for more John Babiak photos from the game coming soon. Babiak also took shots from Brazil’s practice yesterday and will capture game action from the Brazil/Panama friendly tonight at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

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