Colorado is for real
The Rapids entered this match knowing that a positive result in Canada could potentially place them at the top of the Western Conference and of the Supporters’ Shield standings. They also entered this match without playmaker Marco Pappa.
Due to Pappa’s knee injury, the Rapids were on the defensive end for the majority of the game. Meanwhile, the Impact were attempting to shake off their winless streak that had stretch for two games.
As a result, they produced 16 shots and won the battle of possession in the process. However, Colorado’s defense was stingy and did not allow Montreal to take easy shots. The Canadian club were only able to get three shots on target.
The Rapids rolled up their sleeves and played physical with the home side. They won 53 challenges, completed 19 tackles and ended 17 attacks with clutch clearances.
Colorado also committed 11 fouls and picked up three yellow cards. However, a world class set piece from Didier Drogba put the Impact ahead early in the match.
Drogba provides the breakthrough
From more then 20-yards out Drogba lined up to take the free kick. He calmly took three steps back after he placing the ball down before he blasted the ball into the upper left hand corner of the net to give Montreal the 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Montreal nearly doubles the lead
Drogba’s goal was the first shot in the game for either side. After taking the lead, the Impact were able to create four more shots before halftime. The World Cup veteran nearly scored again at the 26th minute.
Drogba was able to elude two defenders and then fired a half volley shot heading towards goal. However, his strike was deflected by a defender and the ball soared in the air and just missed the crossbar.
Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath was relieved that the awkward deflection flew out of bounds. It was clear that MacMath did not have a good read on the movement of the ball as it was coming down.
The Rapids did not shy away
However, the half carried on and Colorado responded by creating five shots with three of them on target. Kevin Doyle, Shkelzen Gashi, Luis Solignac and Jermaine Jones were pushing the Rapids offense and forcing the Montreal defense to stay honest. The four of them combined for eight of the 10 Colorado shots. Additionally, they also tallied up four of the five shots that were on target.
The Rapids offense created six less opportunities then the Impact, but they finished with two more shots on target. Colorado’s smart offense was able to finally breakthrough early in the 47th minute with Gashi leveling the match 1-1.
The Albanian striker was able to beat out the defender to Mekeil Williams' bouncing cross. Williams' ball was whipped in from the right hand side and bounced into the heart of the penalty box. Gashi simply tapped the ball into the net to erase the Impacts lead.
Montreal comes roaring back
The score stayed level at 1-1 for only three minutes before Impact defender Maxim Tissot gave the home side the 2-1 lead in the 50th minute. The play started with a smart and cool decision from Harry Shipp to get the ball away from a crowded area. Instead of trying to force the issue, Shipp dished the ball to the left hand side where Tissot was completing his run.
The Canadian international did not waste any time on the ball and blasted a long range shot to the bottom right hand corner of the net. The Stade Saputo exploded as the Impact were once again ahead.
The Rapids just do not quit
Colorado did not fade away after going behind again. They created five shots in the remaining minutes of the match. The home side took no chances with a one goal lead as they produced six shots themselves. However, none were on target.
The Rapids defense still managed to bother Montreal even though they were aggressively searching for the tying goal again. Out of the six shots the Canadian club took, four were blocked by Colorado players. The Montreal players were getting frustrated as the third goal never seemed like a reality.
However, in the 73rd minute the 20,801 passionate fans in the Stade Saputo went silent as the Rapids tied the match 2-2. It was not Jones, Doyle, Gashi or Solignac that scored the Rapids second goal. Instead it was center back Bobby Burling.
The play began from a set piece that Gashi took. He placed the ball in a crowded box. However, it was Colorado’s Axel Sjoberg who crashed the box and managed to make contact with the cross. The ball bounced passed a small pocket of open space and right into the path of Burling. The six-foot-five-inch defender took no chances and smashed the ball into the net to secure the massive road point for the Rapids.
Where they stand
With this draw the Rapids are the number one club in Major League Soccer with 17 points from nine matches. That is a massive improvement from last season, when Colorado had only earned nine points in their first nine matches.
The Impact are still in first place after the disappointing draw at home with 14 points in nine games. However, that can change if Toronto FC defeats the Portland Timbers on Sunday at Providence Park. It can be by any score line since TFC has a better goal differential then their Canadian rivals.
However, the bigger issues for the Impact are that in their last three games they have only earned two points out of a possible nine. In their last two home matches they have concded a combined three goals and have only picked up a point in the process.
Montreal can easily find themselves dipping in the Eastern Conference if they do not turn their form around quickly.
Who they face next
Both clubs will be back in action on Saturday. The Rapids will be hosting rivals Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. As for the Impact, they will be heading to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium.