By MIKE NASTRI
The rapid succession of goals between Colorado and New York looked more like a boxing match than a soccer game, as the teams went blow for blow scoring four first half goals in six minutes. The blitz started with a Jeff Larentowicz penalty and concluded with a Luke Rodgers class finish. Those six minutes contained all the scoring in the match as Colorado and New York ended in a 2-2 tie.
Luke Rodgers capped off the first-half slugfest with a flick just over the reach of Rapids keeper Matt Pickens. Roy Miller chipped a ball at the corner of the penalty area and Rodgers outran Marvell Wynne to get a touch in front of the oncoming Pickens.
"Just lifed it over him [Matt Pickens]," said Rodgers. "Just a striker's goal, but I was pleased to have scored that. And then I thought we were going to go on and win the game, but sometimes these things don't happen."
Added Pickens: "We met the ball at the exact same time. I figured the only way he's going to score is if he flicks it over me on the run. And I didn't think he'd be able to do that, so I just threw my body low. He had a good finish, I even told him during the game that it was a good finish and he agreed."
Larentowicz opened the scoring in the 27th minute from the spot. Red Bull's keeper Greg Sutton stopped the initial penalty, but the ball popped right back to Larentowicz, who easily scored the wide open rebound. Andre Akpan earned the PK for Colorado when Roy Miller pushed the Rapids' forward out of the way of a incoming cross just outside the penalty box. Both players fell into the area and referee Jorge Gonzalez pointed to the spot. The foul looked like it was in the box to the naked eye, but after the benefit of replay, it was clear Miller committed the push just outside.
"I thought it's [the penalty kick call] a little bit of a cheap one," said New York defender Jan Gunnar Solli. "I think he dropped down real easy and there is probably contact, but that doesn't mean he has to drop down inside the eighteen yard line. If the referee was a little bit unsure, he should've given the foul outside."
"I do not know if it was a penalty or not," said Thierry Henry. "I have to see the replay. But we keep on conceding cheap goals. We cannot afford that."
The Red Bulls answered quickly, just two minutes later, thanks to a cool Henry one-time finish. Joel Lindpere found Dwyane De Rosario streaking down the left wing and the Canadian International found Henry trailing the play at the top of the box.
Defending on set pieces was in question again for New York on Colorado's second goal in the 32nd minute. After an Henry foul 25 yards from goal, Colorado lined three guys up behind the ball. Pablo Mastroeni touched the ball right and Larentowicz snuck from behind the trio of Rapids players to hit a low driving shot. Sutton never saw it as the ball streaked under the New York wall into left corner of the goal to give Larentowicz his brace.
"I think they surprised us a little bit by pushing the ball in other direction," said Solli. "It's not usual that you push the ball to the left [Solli's left] and then a right footer shoots. And it goes between the legs of one our guys."
Solli continued: "When we are struggling a little bit, it's typical to let in those type of goals. Now, I feel like we need to try to clear our minds, it's going to be a tough period of games now."
Added Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe: "We have defended very well. There have been some strange goals, mostly from wide free kicks against us. When you have a wall and it goes through the wall, you can say of course that it's a little bit sloppy, but overall I think when you look at corners and wide free kicks against us it was okay. I think there's not too much for me to talk about."
Despite the assuredness of Backe, set piece defending has become a big problem for the Red Bulls of late. New York has given up four set piece goals and two penalties in the last four games, which resulted in three ties and a loss.
Colorado might've scored two fluky goals, but they came close a number of other times in a well played match. Sanna Nyassi hit woodwork in the 42nd minute on a rocket from 25 yards out that had Greg Sutton beat.
Colorado looked like the more dangerous side in the second half and looked to have clinched the win off the foot of Conor Casey, but Tim Ream saved the day for New York in the 77th minute. Casey hit a low shot off a clever Joseph Nane through ball. Sutton got a piece of the shot, but the ball slipped through towards goal. Ream cleared it with a backheel flick inside the six yard box.
"I think we did have the better chances," said Rapids defender Drew Moor. "To be fair, I think we did outplay them. We will walk away with out heads held high, but without a doubt there is that slight disappointment that we felt we could have gotten the full three points by creating some chances here in the second half. But, it's a quick turnaround and that's always a good thing."
The Rapids and the Red Bulls have only a few days of rest with both playing Saturday. The Rapids host Sporting KC and the Red Bulls travel to Vancouver. This will be the last game that the Red Bulls will have the services of Tim Ream, Dwyane De Rosario and Juan Agudelo for over a month because of the Gold Cup. New York were already without Dane Richards and Rafa Marquez for the CONCACAF bi-annual tournament. The Rapids will only be without one player for the Gold Cup, their leading scorer from last year, Omar Cummings.