Pretty or ugly, it doesn’t matter; the Union went away to the best team in the league on two days rest and drew them, 1-1.
During a grueling 34-game schedule, sometimes you have to grind out ugly results. There are no style points in soccer; winning pretty doesn’t earn you more points than winning ugly. All that matters in the end is the points you got, not how you got them. The Union got an ugly yet precious point tonight.
Union first XI: Blake; Gaddis, Marquez, Tribbett, Rosenberry; Carroll, Creavalle; Pontius, Barnetta, Le Toux; Sapong
Rapids first XI: MacMath; Burch, Sjoberg, Burling, Williams; Azira, Cronin; Solignac, Powers, Serna; K. Doyle
The Union made just two changes to their lineup from the Orlando City match, switching Fabinho out in favor of Ray Gaddis, and Ken Tribbett back in for the injured Josh Yaro , who was available on the bench. The Rapids started well as they manufactured multiple chances into the Union box while Chris Pontius received attention for a cut on his head he suffered due to a clash of heads with Williams at midfield. The Union weathered the first fifteen minutes and started getting forward a bit more, but little came of their efforts; their best chance was a Tranquillo Barnetta free kick from the top of the box which was cleared off the line thanks to three defenders and MacMath all standing on the goal line. In the 32nd minute, Solignac had a chance from seven yards out which he airmailed after a pass fell to him in what amounted to the best chance by either side in this half. Both sides got physical as CJ Sapong and defender Bobby Burling faced off multiple times, with CJ trying to body Burling up and Burling fighting through him. Sapong at one point tore Burling’s jersey so badly that it tore clean up the side and had to be replaced. The referee was content to let the players sort things out on this night as not one card was handed out. Neither team recorded an actual shot on goal, and the half ended the way it began, scoreless.
No lineup changes were made to start the second half as both sides were content to roll out the same eleven. As the half progressed, Colorado looked the stronger side as the game opened up. Dillon Powers hit the crossbar in the 70th minute as the Rapids starting knocking on the door. Ten minutes later, Solignac hit the woodwork as well, and you got the sense it was just a matter of time. Sure enough, Marlon Hairston (who came on for Dillon Serna in the 61st and caused a whole slew of problems for the Union) picked out a pass into the box in the 87th minute that Rapids captain Sam Cronin headed home, getting just enough on it so Ken Tribbett couldn’t stop it and Andre Blake couldn’t get to it as it nestled into side netting. It was Cronin’s first of the year.
The now-desperate Union pressed forward searching for an equalizer and somehow found one. In the second minute of stoppage, Ray Gaddis sent a lofted ball into the box which Fabian Herbers won and headed out wide, where a late-arriving Brian Carroll first-timed the ball out of the air with his left foot at the back post and past Zac MacMath to even the score at 1-1. The timely goal was the Union captain’s first of the year. That’s how the match ended, as the Union stole a point they perhaps did not deserve and Colorado gave up the first point they’ve allowed at home this year (6-0-1).
The Union come home tomorrow and will face the Columbus Crew on Wednesday at Talen Energy Stadium, the last of the six matches in 22 days stretch of their schedule.
Notes: Ilsinho made an appearance for Sebastien Le Toux in the 61st minute and looked sharp, breaking down defenders one-on-one and doing Ilsinho things. Herbers came on for Pontius ten minutes later, and Roland Alberg came on for Barnetta in the 85th.
-The point put the Union on 20 points in 13 games and ensured they would hold at least a share of first place in the East for another week regardless of the result of the NYCFC-Orlando City SC tilt tomorrow.
-Andre Blake will not be with the team for the Crew match, instead reporting to the Jamaican federation camp to prepare for Copa America Centenario. The Union coaching staff will make a decision between Matt Jones (who welcomed into the world his first child this week) and John McCarthy for the start.
-Get better soon Vincent Nogueira. The Union midfield isn’t the same without you.
-It was weird seeing Zac MacMath in all black after watching him play so many matches in bright orange. I wish him well; he’s a good kid and a good goalkeeper who keeps landing in impossible situations. Eventually he’ll land somewhere with people who have faith in him.