Vancouver Whitecaps and the altitude of Colorado have not been happy bedfellows over the years and so it continued on Saturday night with a 1-0 loss that made it just two wins and eight points for the 'Caps in their last eight matches.
Vancouver looked comfortable and the better side in the first half, but a rain delay at the break seemed to change the momentum and Colorado grabbed all three points thanks to Lucas Pittinari's 51st minute volley and a phantom call from the referee disallowing Pedro Morales' late free kick equaliser.
Injuries and fatigue forced Carl Robinson's hand a little with his starting line-up in this one. Pedro Morales sat out after playing two games in the past week, with Mauro Rosales making a welcome return in the number ten role and Kianz Froese getting his first MLS start on the right wing.
There was no debut start for Colorado's new DP Kevin Doyle, who began the game on the bench.
The Rapids came out of the traps and forced a couple of early corners, but neither goalkeeper had much to do in the opening exchanges.
Kekuta Manneh nearly brought the game to life in the 17th minute when Kianz Froese played the ball to him at the edge of the box and the Gambian brought out a fantastic save from Clint Irwin in the Rapids' goal.
There was very little to note from either side, with Vancouver's tight defensive play easily keeping the home side at bay and the Whitecaps were looking the more dangerous team going forward.
The 'Caps had a couple of chances in stoppage time to go in at the break with the lead.
First, Octavio Rivero was sent flying on the edge of the box and Rosales sent a brilliant dipping free kick on goal which Irwin had to acrobatically tip over.
The Argentine sent in the resultant corner, which was met powerfully by Rivero but his header crashed off the bar and the danger was cleared by the Rapids.
With the last kick of the half, Colorado went up the pitch and Dillon Powers fired a fierce one just over, setting up what was hopefully going to be a more action packed second half.
And then the heavens opened with a rain delay, little bit of lightning and a sodden pitch when the players came back out.
Both teams came out on the attack to start the second half and Froese found himself in a good position in the 47th minute but pulled his shot wide right.
Colorado responded with a chance for Gabriel Torres after Powers had split the defence open with a through ball, but the Panamanian fired wide under pressure from Jordan Harvey.
It was just to be a temporary respite for Vancouver and Colorado took the lead in the 51st minute with a well worked goal.
Gershon Koffie seemed to be fouled in the midfield, but with no whistle coming, the Rapids broke forward ending when Torres played a sublime backwards pass to Pittinari who volleyed home past David Ousted.
The Whitecaps came close to levelling things up just two minutes later when Rosales hit another well taken free kick, but this time it was just wide to the left.
Colorado had a great chance to double their lead in the 57th minute when Torres was in the thick of the action again, this time playing in Luis Solignac, but Ousted was out quickly to produce a point blank smothering save.
Manneh had a long range try in the 66th minute that flew over but the Whitecaps were looking a little devoid of ideas in how to get back in the game and it felt like it was going to take something special to do it.
Ousted came to the rescue again for Vancouver when Powers let rip from 30 yards out and the Danish stopper tipped the fierce striker over.
Colorado kept the pressure on from the corner and Pittinari headed narrowly over, as the Rapids sensed blood for killing the game off.
Solignac came within inches of making it two for Colorado in the 76th minute but Harvey cleared his low shot off the line, as Vancouver's defence continued to bend.
Cristian Techera nearly brought Vancouver back level moments later firing a 25 yard thunderbolt that caused Irwin problems but he managed to parry it and Colorado handled the danger from the rebound.
Vancouver went for an attacking substitution with their final sub, bringing their captain Morales on for defensive midfielder Matias Laba with 13 minutes remaining.
And Morales thought he'd tied the game up in the 82nd minute when he curled a beautiful free kick into the postage stamp corner but the goal was ruled out for a phantom call from referee Jose Carlos Rivero, who seemingly adjudged a foul on Pa Modou Kah in the wall.
Vancouver rolled the dice late on, putting center back Kendall Waston up front and the big Costa Rican turned a Darren Mattocks cross into the side netting in the final minute.
The 'Caps just couldn't get anything going in the four minutes of stoppage time and fell to what is just their second away defeat of the season, but more concerning is their continued failure to turn chances into goals.
With a tough home game against RSL coming up next Saturday, followed by five games on the road, the 'Caps need to find something to turn their fortunes around sharpish.
FINAL SCORE: Colorado Rapids 1 - 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
COLORADO: Clint Irwin; James Riley, Drew Moor, Axel Sjoberg, Marc Burch; Sam Cronin, Lucas Pittinari, Gabriel Torres (Kevin Doyle 63), Dillon Powers, Juan Ramirez (Vicente Sanchez 86); Luis Solignac [subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Michael Harrington, Bobby Burling, Jared Watts, Charles Eloundou]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah. Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba (Pedro Morales 77), Gershon Koffie, Kianz Froese (Cristian Techera 62), Mauro Rosales, Kekuta Manneh (Darren Mattocks 70); Octavio Rivero [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Ethen Sampson, Tim Parker, Nicolas Mezquida]
On his feelings after the game:
"I’m gutted for the guys in there; I really am, because I thought we put on a decent away performance. For them, they’re upset in there and they’re upset because it hurts. 3 players of mine get booked, I think we had 10 or 12, 13 fouls, and they had 25 fouls and 2 players get booked. Trying to explain to the group when decisions go against them is hard when you feel it’s unjustified."
Thoughts on performance:
[From TSN radio] "I thought the effort and application were fantastic. I thought the boys really gave the game a good go. There were a lot of positive performances from a lot of the guys. Unfortunately we were on the end of a wrong result."
On if they should’ve taken their chances in the first half:
"Yeah, we probably should’ve. I think we were very, very good in the first half and we had a couple of good chances which we didn’t take, and they hung in there. Second half was always going to be different. I think they had their best spell in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and they got their goal. It was a good finish by the boy, it really was, so credit to him for that, but I do think there was a foul in the lead up to that, which we didn’t get given. But we reacted very well. We had a couple of good chances at the end and obviously the disallowed goal which….disallowed goal."
[From TSN radio] "I wanted us to continue playing the way we played because I thought we were very, very strong in the first 45 minutes and had the better chances out of the game. I knew that Colorado would have their phase of play in the second half, because we were good in the first half, and they did in the first 15 minutes. They managed to get their goal and obviously that was enough for them in the end."
On if they are creating enough on the road to take points:
"I think so; I think Kianz’s [Froese] was an excellent chance. I think if you compare Kianz’s chance to the boy Pittinari’s, we probably had the better chance. We didn’t take that, we missed it near post, he’s a super volley and, fine lines this game."
Do you feel like you are in a funk after a hot start to the season?
"No, not at all. Obviously, we’d like to win 7 out of 7, but that doesn’t happen. I think you look around the league, and I was watching Portland against Toronto today, and there was a dubious call on the penalty I think that was very harsh. It evens itself out; well it hopefully evens itself out. You’ve just got to get on with it, we’ve got a big game next week against Salt Lake and we’ll just keep going, because if we perform like that and play like that, we won’t be far away."
On Pedro Morales' disallowed free kick:
[From TSN radio] "At the time that I saw it, I thought it was a good goal, but obviously he blew a free kick for a foul on Pa [Modou Kah] in the wall. I asked [the referee] to clarify at the end of the game. He clarified and said he pushed the guy in the wall. Unfortunately, the guy in the wall, the young boy [Axel] Sjoberg, confirmed that he didn't push him and after watching the replay again, there was no contact from my player onto their player, so he has got that one wrong."
On whether there was a foul on Gershon Koffie in the build-up to Colorado's goal:
"It was a great finish by the boy," Robinson stated. "Fair play to him. It was great technique, it was a super strike and it's a great goal. I'll give him a lot of credit for that, but if you're asking me if there was a foul in the build-up, yes there was."
Did the break hurt the Whitecaps
[From TSN radio] "That is the way games go. I don't know if the longer break did hurt us or not because I was very, very pleased with the first 45 minutes and I wanted us to continue that in the second half. Opposition teams are always going to have their patterns and their time on the ball. Colorado got theirs in the first 15 minutes and obviously they managed to get that goal. I'm gutted for the boys today because the effort, the application, the attitude from them was absolutely spot on. They're a grumpy bunch in there tonight because they feel hard done by and I've got to agree with them."
On the reasoning behind some of the changes to the starting line-up after three games in seven days:
"It’s a tough place to come, here. Colorado, you know, they’re fighting for their lives and they get a lot of men behind the ball, they do it very well and I wanted freshness in the team. I think we had that, you know, it was always planned to make some changes at 60 minutes to come, but the subs that came on made a big impact as well, so it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately we were on the wrong end of a result."
On having said that Colorado was a better team than their record showed:
"I do, I think they’ve been very unlucky. I think they’ve got good players here. Pablo’s a great guy and it’s important to get your first win, especially at home, and he’s got that today, unfortunately against us. I give them credit, they’ve beaten us today. I think it’s a little bit unfortunate on us because one or two things have been taken out of our hands, but congratulations to them. We will deal with it, take it on the chin and move on."
On what Mauro Rosales will give to the team now that he’s back:
"That, exactly what we saw today. I thought in the first half he was absolutely excellent in the first 45 minutes. He’s such a smart player, he slows us down, he quickens us up. He’s black and blue in there, he really is. I think there’s 8 or 9 consecutive fouls on him, persistent fouling. Maybe I’m going to have to go to the rule book and find out what the rule is because I’m misreading them at the moment."
On what he asked of his guys going into the game knowing that Colorado would come out strong:
"I think we had the better chances in the first half I think we had the more clear chances. Colorado is a good team, they’ve got good players and no two halves of football are the same. I think if you look in this league, the team that plays better in the first half sometimes doesn’t play as well in the second half. We knew Colorado would push. It was important that when they pushed we didn’t give anything away. When they pushed in the first 15 minutes, they got their goal; we give something away so we were always chasing the game then. The conditions were the same for both teams. It’s tough playing at altitude, but we had enough chances to get something out of the game and that’s why I’m disappointed for the guys in there and they’re disappointed."
On tonight’s game:
"I thought that we should have gotten a draw away from here, and I thought the team showed some character throughout a tough match."
On personal performance of the night:
"I am happy with what I did tonight. At the end of the day we still didn’t get any points, and that is the most important thing, so I am disappointed."
On season performance of the team:
"I think we played another really sound defensive game today. I thought we got the balance right between the defense and the offense, and had a number of chances. I thought we deserved more."
What are the positives you can take away from today:
"We showed character; that we can battle in these tough games."
On what the difference was tonight:
"The goal they scored, because we managed the game. We played very well. I think the team shows character. We battled out there and it’s a pity that we couldn’t get a result in our favor. I think we deserved at least a draw. We had chances. We worked very hard to get anything, but with soccer they were more effective than us. Just change the pace and just move forward. I think that playing like that away the way that we did, we can be ok. We can keep moving forward from that."
On how they were able to get good looks but no goals:
"Actually having the chances to score is what we have to keep getting in position for. We have to keep moving and generate chances, but try to be more effective. As soon as we don’t get chances, the strikers aren’t going to get anything. We are happy that we could build and offensively play very well, and also as a team we played very well today. Like I said before, it’s a pity that we couldn’t get anything. We’ve been very close. We scored one, but unfortunately it was a call that happens in games, so just move forward and being positive of a lot of stuff that we did well today, and obviously learn from the loss."
On team’s current streak:
"I think all the teams are going to have this kind of trouble in the season. As soon as we go through that learning, especially today playing the way that we did, you have to be confident for what is ahead of us. It’s a long season, the best of our team could be much better, I’m very confident that we can play much better. We hope that we can do it the following games. This is what we all want and we believe that we can do it so we want to move forward, always learning and always going for more."
On first home win of the season:
"It feels great. I think we caught some breaks today, but it feels great. You need results to validate all of the hard work you put in Monday through Friday that no one else sees. These guys have not made any excuses or complained. They go in every week Monday through Friday and give everything they have for a result like this. I’m so happy for those guys. I’ve never met a group of more deserving men."
On Solignac and Doyle’s debut:
"I thought they were tremendous. I think they brought a different dynamic to the group that we didn’t have. They bring good quality to the group, they’re great teammates, but they fight as well. They get stuck in when need be. In this league, it’s a long season and a tough league. To have these guys join us at this time, I think is going to be a big lift for this group."
On the goal:
"To be fair it happened so fast I didn’t really see it. It was some good combination play, and a good finish. I think at home the last couple of games we’ve been creating a lot but haven’t been able to finish. It’s great to see that ball finally hit the back of the net. We’ve been working on that kind of stuff non-stop over the last couple of weeks. To see it come to fruition through some dynamic play, to finally finish a play with a goal was fantastic."
On feelings after the win:
"At the end of the season it all comes back to the mean. You’re going to get breaks or you’re not going to get breaks. We’re on the front end of a lot of the bad breaks. This was one of those games that instils belief and instils momentum. These three points aren’t just the first win at home; I think it’s starting something special going forward."
On preparing for the second half during the weather delay:
"We have the comfort of home here. The guys were spinning on the bike. We just kept it really low key. We didn’t want to spend a lot of energy getting them riled up. We had gone through a delay last week, and it was long. We just wanted to keep the legs loose and keep the minds right. The guys were talking amongst themselves and staying focused. I think they did a good job of that. We came out quite focused, and quite sharp in the second half."
On keeping Solignac in for the full 90 minutes:
"Initially, you don’t want to expose them to that. I felt he was very comfortable. He came in as one of the fittest players in Rapids history, is what I gathered from the medical staff. He blew through every physical test, and tested the best. From that perspective it wasn’t a concern for me. As the game went on I didn’t even think twice. This guy is a machine. He fought for balls and held the balls up great. I think it’s something in the past where we’ve had some difficulty is getting the ball up front and then holding the ball up so we can bring some guys up and set up our attack. I think today both him and Kevin Doyle did a good job of bringing the team into the attack."
Did missing the game last week help in that aspect?
"If he were to score two last week, he probably would have come into this week more confident. The important thing is that the mindset after a long delay there, we had a tough week of training. We just wanted to get the guys hungry and competitive. It was a lot of work, so they overcame a lot in the last week and a half. They put forth a tremendous spirit, played some good stuff, and created some good opportunities. I’m really happy with the effort and the mentality of the group."
On tactical adjustments at halftime:
"I think we were playing a bit narrow in the first half. We were sloppy with our passing in the attacking third, and weren’t moving the ball quick enough. We didn’t create width, we didn’t move the ball quick enough and we were giving it away cheap. Those are three things that won’t allow you to get close to goal, more importantly will create a good counter attacking situation for the other team. I think in the second half we moved the ball quicker, we looked forward with our passes and were able to bypass some lines. As the game wears on, especially here at home we know that we are going to get our looks. I was happy with the first half that we didn’t concede a goal and for the first time this year we weren’t chasing it. We didn’t feel like we had to expose ourselves. We just stayed in the game, stayed focused, waited for our opportunity and took it well."
On the upcoming match against Seattle:
"They’re obviously a tough team. At the moment here it is just about recovery- getting the body right, getting the mind right and approaching the Seattle game like we’ve done every game on the road. We’ve gone to tough places in LA and in New York, Houston, we’ve played in some places this year and found ways to get results. The mentality and mindset of this group is to go there and do the same. It’s going to take 90+ minutes of concentration, effort and commitment, and some good soccer as well. I think we have a group now with the addition of Doyle and Solignac, the three points, and the momentum- we have a lot of good things going for us to go there with the right mentality and to get a good result."
On his debut with the Rapids:
"I feel great. I think the team had a really good effort. We deserved the three points, so I am really happy."
On the first half:
"I think the plan was to play some long balls in the beginning to stretch the team, but the two defenders were really tough, so the second half we tried to play a bit more on the ground. We knew they would get tired because of the altitude, so we were smart and held the ball until they were tired, then went for the attack."
On the effect of the altitude:
"I didn’t think about it much during the game. I was trying to focus on the game so I didn’t think about the altitude. It really works because I didn’t feel it at all."
On chemistry with other players:
"It felt really good. Today we really helped the team. The subs came in and did a good job, so I think that is the way we should continue to play.
On the atmosphere in the locker room postgame:
"We really needed it. We’ve tied many games, so the team really needed a win. It was a great atmosphere."
On first experience against a MLS backline:
"It was tougher than I thought. They were big and physical players. I think that we found that when we had the ball on our feet, they struggled a bit because they were really physical. We tried to play on the ground and it really worked."
On your game-winning goal:
"It looked like a mishit from Dillon Powers that reached Gaby [Torres] and I think he saw me out of the corner of his eye and was able to flick the ball to me. I hit a half-volley and thankfully it went in."
On moving forward after the first home win of the season:
"The team has been working extremely hard with a lot of humility and sacrifice. Things weren’t really going our way and we weren’t getting the results we were looking for but tonight we were able to get the win. I think it will bring a bit of calmness just in time for our next game in a few days. Right now we need to focus on our recovery because we will need to put in a great performance at Seattle to try and get a positive result."
On the team’s mentality and resilience:
"I think we were very smart out there tonight and extremely solid in the back, which was costing us a little in past games. We were able to create some clear chances in the second half and eventually got the goal."
On Solignac and Doyle’s first performance with the team:
"They are very important to the team. They are two players with a lot of experience and great mobility. We have welcomed them and I hope they are able to adapt as best and quickly as possible because we will definitely need them."
How would you assess your first performance with the club?
"We won so it was nice. It was a little shaky at the end but it was nice to get the win. I needed that time on the pitch to get involved and the altitude didn’t feel too bad."
On your chemistry with your teammates:
"It’s hard after only training for a few days but they’re good players. We were close to getting another goal and I think we should’ve scored another one. There was some good football and it was great for me to get out there. I didn’t know if I was going to or not after a long week with a lot of new things to take in."
On the ovation from the crowd:
"It was brilliant. Ever since I’ve gotten here everyone has been very enthusiastic not only with me but with everyone as well. I think we were just waiting for that win that’s been a long time coming. It was a strange night with the weather and the delay but most of the crowd stuck by us and got rewarded by that thankfully."
On playing on turf at Seattle next week:
"It will be my first time since I played once in Russia about five, six years ago. I’ll be fine and I’m sure I won’t have any problems."
What did the coaches ask from you tonight?:
"They just told me to come on and sit in between midfield and the center forward. When we didn’t have the ball I would sit in and help out on the midfield and when we did have it, I would push up and try to get forward as much as I could."