New York City came into tonight’s game smarting from their first home shutout. They’ll be leaving Colorado smarting from a lackluster road draw. New York had their chances, but were left to rue them after the Rapids notched a late equalizer.
As is their wont, New York City made a strong start to the game, controlling matters from the outset. Although Colorado tested goalkeeper Sean Johnson early, the Pigeons maintained their nerve.
In the 19th minute, Tommy McNamara — who’s captained the team in David Villa’s absence — took advantage of some loose defending by the Rapids to unleash a thunderbolt of a goal.
Five minutes later, Andrea Pirlo nearly doubled the New York City lead with a vintage free-kick attempt that thundered off the goal post.
The Pigeons controlled the run of play in the remainder of the first half, but Colorado came close to leveling things in the 40th minute. However, more steady goalkeeping from Johnson kept the score at 1-0.
New York City had a couple of chances to add to the lead in early in the second half, but as the game wore on, Colorado grew into the game. The Rapids began to build pressure, and tried to push for the equalizer with greater urgency.
In the 67th minute, New York City homegrown player James Sands — 17 years old — came in as a substitute for Pirlo, 38. The age difference between the two players made for an interesting footnote; it’s the greatest age difference between subs in MLS history.
Sands performed creditably in his professional debut, making no notable errors, and earning a “professional” yellow card with a suitably professional foul late in the game, as the Pigeons fought to retain their lead.
Three minutes after Sands came in, manager Patrick Vieira brought on David Villa, seeking to add to the lead. But it was for naught, as Colorado put all their efforts in pursuit of the draw.
In the 84th minute, Johnson absolutely stoned Rapids forward Alan Gordon with a kick-save that should’ve proved the equalizer. But it only delayed the inevitable. In the 88th minute, Dominique Badji found himself with time and space on the ball. Badji took the shot, and scored.
Badji’s goal leveled the score at one apiece, and after a desultory three minutes of stoppage time, that’s how it ended.
However disappointing the draw — Colorado, after all, are in last place in the league — New York City remain in second place, with 51 points on a record of 15 wins, 8 losses, and 6 draws. Moreover, it’s been six games since the Pigeons have surrendered more than one goal. Colorado’s tying goal was only the second time this year they’ve surrendered a goal in the last 15 minutes of a match. The defense, which was so problematic in 2015 and for large stretches of last season, has become one of the silent strengths of this team.
New York City’s weathering a tough injury crisis the way you’d expect a contending club to do it. David Villa should lead the line in next week’s “home” game against the Houston Dynamo in Hartford, CT. Ronald Matarrita — out for so much of this season with a plague of injuries — is working his way back to match fitness.
Once Yangel Herrera, Alexander Ring, and Maxim Chanot return, this team will be as formidable as any, barring Toronto FC, which are having a historic season.
Next up for the Pigeons: the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, in a controversial “home” game which will be played at Rentschler Field in Hartford, CT.