Sporting Kansas City rallied from two goals down on the road in a 2-2 draw at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. Felipe Gutierrez scored his League-leading fourth goal of the season and second-half substitute Diego Rubio capped the comeback with the game-tying goal in stoppage time to keep Sporting KC atop the Western Conference standings.
The Rapids, playing the club's MLS home opener after a pair of byes in the first three weeks of the regular season, looked to be in full control of the match inside the first 10 minutes as Sporting Kansas City surrendered two goals in short succession.
Dominique Badji opened the scoring in the fifth minute, volleying home an Edgar Castillo cross for his 18th goal in four seasons since being taken in the fourth round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Just over three minutes later, the Rapids doubled their lead as Joe Mason raced onto a ball over the top from New Zealand international Tommy Smith. Mason, making his MLS debut, held off Sporting KC captain Matt Besler and did well to find the back of the net under additional pressure from Tim Melia.
The clinical finishing from the two Colorado forwards, and the ensuing defensive response from Sporting KC, proved to be the difference during a match in which the Rapids capitalized on the team's only two shots on goal. On the opposite end, longtime U.S. MNT goalkeeper Tim Howard was at his best with seven saves, his most since returning to Major League Soccer, including three superb stops on both sides of halftime.
The 39-year-old Howard produced back-to-back saves in the 45th minute, first denying Yohan Croizet then turning away the follow-up effort from Khiry Shelton, and was back in action moments into the second half with a fantastic foot save to once again thwart Shelton.
Sporting Kansas City would find the breakthrough goal in the 57th minute, not long after Badji was on the brink of stretching the Rapids lead to 3-0 with an uncontested header at the back post. Instead, it was Gutierrez cutting Sporting KC's deficit in half as the Chilean continues his introduction to MLS with goals in three straight games.
Roger Espinoza started the attacking sequence with a pinpoint pass to Croizet, whose powerful header struck the near post and rebounded to the penalty spot. Gutierrez was first to the loose ball and laced a left-footed strike in stride to spark the second-half rally.
Gutierrez then nearly pulled Sporting KC level on two separate occasions. In the 75th minute, the Designated Player showed off sublime skill, lifting the ball over Danny Wilson with his first touch and firing a half-volley with his second touch that Howard dove low to his left to palm away. In the 81st minute, Graham Zusi's corner kick fell to Gutierrez inside the six-yard box but Howard stood tall to keep out Gutierrez's acrobatic attempt.
Sporting Kansas City's pursuit of an equalizer would deliver drama in stoppage time but not first without a near dagger from the right foot of Jack Price. The Rapids midfielder fired a free kick from 22 yards out that glanced off the gloves of Melia and into the crossbar to keep the scoreline at 2-1 entering five minutes of added time.
Thirty seconds later, Rubio, who had entered the match in the 88th minute, rescued a road result for Sporting Kansas City on an intricately-worked build-up inside the penalty area. Shelton, after receiving the ball from Gerso Fernandes and surrounded by three Colorado players, rolled a pass backwards for Rubio to collect on the overlapping run and place into the bottom corner to stun the Rapids.
Sporting Kansas City now returns home to host D.C. United at 7:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 31 at Children's Mercy Park. Tickets are available online at SeatGeek.com and the first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive an Ike Opara bobblehead courtesy of UMKC.
2018 MLS Regular Season
Game 4 of 34
Dick's Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Colorado
Weather: 61 degrees and cloudy
|Sporting Kansas City (2-1-1, 7 points)||0||2||2|
|Colorado Rapids (0-1-1, 1 point)||2||0||2|
Sporting Kansas City: Tim Melia; Seth Sinovic (Jimmy Medranda 46), Matt Besler (c), Ike Opara, Graham Zusi; Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Felipe Gutierrez; Johnny Russell (Diego Rubio 88), Khiry Shelton, Yohan Croizet (Gerso Fernandes 61)
Subs Not Used: Adrian Zendejas, Emiliano Amor, Jaylin Lindsey, Cristian Lobato
Colorado Rapids: Tim Howard; Tommy Smith, Danny Wilson, Deklan Wynne; Edgar Castillo, Enzo Martinez, Jack Price, Johan Blomberg (Bismark Boateng 58), Marlon Hairston; Dominque Badji (Jack McBean 84), Joe Mason (Niki Jackson 64)
Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Dillon Serna, Micheal Azira, Jared Watts
COL - Dominique Badji 1 (Edgar Castillo 1, Jack Price 1) 5'
COL - Joe Mason 1 (Tommy Smith 1) 8'
SKC - Felipe Gutierrez 4 (unassisted) 57'
SKC - Diego Rubio 1 (Khiry Shelton 1, Gerso Fernandes 1) 91+
COL - Jack Price (caution; reckless tackle) 15'
COL - Niki Jackson (caution; delaying a restart) 65'
COL - Tim Howard (caution; delaying a restart) 79'
SKC - Ilie Sanchez (caution; reckless tackle) 93+
|Shots on Goal||9||2|
Referee: Sorin Stoica
Assistant Referee: Andrew Bigelow
Assistant Referee: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
Fourth Official: Alejandro Mariscal
VAR: Ricardo Salazar