By JOSE M. ROMERO
PHOENIX – The defending MLS champions hadn’t been in Arizona more than 24 hours before they had to play the first of three preseason games of a tightly-scheduled six-day trip to the desert.
It showed. To some degree, anyway.
The Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City played to a scoreless draw after 120 minutes – two 45-minute periods and a 30 – before a decent-sized crowd of onlookers and Omar Bravo fans Saturday morning at the Reach 11 soccer complex.
The Rapids played without midfielder Pablo Mastroeni, who was unable to suit up due to a nagging thigh injury but is expected to practice Monday. They did open the match with a quality starting 11, featuring Omar Cummings and big target Caleb Folan (above) from Hull City of England, who is on a trial for the next week but seems to have already impressed Colorado’s coaches; newly acquired wing Sanna Nyassi (Seattle), Wells Thompson, Jeff Larentowicz and Joseph Nane in the midfield; Kosuke Kimura, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace and Marvell Wynne in the back and Matt Pickens in goal.
"Players are pleased to get some warmth on their back and to feel a little bit human again," Rapids coach Gary Smith said. "The pitch was just a little bit bubbly this morning and I think it created for a more competitive game than possibly normally for both sides."
The Rapids had been training in Colorado for the past few weeks until heading to Arizona.
Kansas City countered with what seems more and more likely to be their starting three forwards, Bravo, Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara; Davy Arnaud and Michael Mravec in the midfield; Roger Espinoza and Michael Harrington as defenders, three trialists and Jimmy Nielsen in goal.
Bravo played well with Kamara and Bunbury and the three were close to combining for a goal on two occasions – once in the 55th minute when Kamara sent a ball into Bunbury but the shot was blocked, and again five minutes later when Bravo played a good ball into Bunbury, who missed an open net.
KC made mass substitutions after about 60 minutes. The Rapids opened the second period with a lot of subs, most notably Conor Casey at forward with Quincy Amarikwa; Brian Mullan and Jamie Smith at midfielder and Tyrone Marshall at center back.
One of Sporting KC's subs, midfielder Chance Myers, had a good shot blocked and saved by backup keeper Steward Ceus in the 73rd minute. KC's second keeper, Eric Kronberg, took away a potential goal from Colorado's Andre Akpan in the 83rd minute.
Casey was his usual physical presence, locking up in a nice battle for the ball with KC defender Shavar Thomas toward the end of the second period. Casey helped Thomas up afterward.
Ceus came out of the net to turn away several Kansas City chances in the third period.
"We just played the MLS champs and we kind of wanted to beat them," Myers said. "But no, it was back and forth and there wasn't too many shots because everyone was running their butt off. It was a hard-fought match. The shape is really what we're emphasizing… just the defensive pressure and when to step, when to drop. As a team collectively, we're doing a pretty good job."