It's not easy to play at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Colorado Rapids have been showing that all season, to the tune of a 5-2-2 record at home with the League's second-best home goal differential. In just the last few weeks alone, the Rapids have home victories to their name by final scorelines of 4-1, 3-0 and 2-0. Toss in the altitude factor, and the Crew knew that Friday night's test would be a difficult one.
That's not to mention that the Black & Gold entered this clash without top playmaker Federico Higuain, who did not make the trip to Colorado due to his hamstring injury. It seemed like a prudent play to let Higuain continue to heal, with a gigantic clash against Conference rival New York Red Bulls looming on the horizon for next week.
For this week? The above factors certainly sound like a recipe for disaster, but that wasn't the case for the Crew on the Fourth of July. Even after conceding first via an own goal, Columbus battled back to earn – yes, truly earn – a draw with the Rapids in Commerce City.
The best sign? The team is still hungry for more. Just ask goal-scorer Ethan Finlay, who returned to the lineup tonight after missing time due to an appendectomy.
"It's a tough place to come and play. When you can get a point on the road, it's great, but I think if you asked the group as a whole, it's a little bit frustrating," said Finlay. "Quite a few ties in a row now … I think we had a lot of chances tonight. It didn't quite go our way. If we put some of those other ones away, maybe we can win that game. It's a tough place to play like I said before. We'll be happy with a point."
Don't be mistaken. The Crew shouldn't be pleased with ties. And Columbus had its fair shot to win the match outright, as Finlay alluded to. Still, all factors considered, this was a tremendous result for the Crew.
"I thought it was a good game," said Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. "I thought it was an exciting soccer game for the fans. I thought we put a lot of effort into that game, a lot of commitment – both teams did – and I think a draw in this case was a fair result."
Colorado opened the scoring in the second half, which was unfortunate because the Crew had really controlled play to that point, and continued to do so throughout the entire final 45. The response led to both Finlay's goal and sustained bouts of attack that nearly led to a few others.
"We came out good in the second half," said Berhalter. "We had a bunch of chances and had that goal called back for offside. I felt really confident in what we were doing in the second half. To respond after they scored was good. Especially to dig deep in the altitude and come back into the game was very good.
"It was a little bit of urgency. It was also that we were moving the ball quicker," continued Berhalter. "It was really deciding that we were going after it. At times in the first half, we were protecting it a little bit and not really going for it. In the second half, the ball movement and ball tempo was really good."
Now the hope for the Black & Gold is that the positive play transitions over to another difficult road match – next week's clash with New York, a match that could prove pivotal in the playoff chase.