COMMERCE CITY — Playing their first home game in a month, and coming off their first road victory of the season a week ago that ended a four-game losing streak, the Rapids were hoping to win back-to-back games for the first time since June.
They didn’t quite pull it off, but they did squeeze out a 1-1 tie Saturday with one of the best teams in MLS on a dramatic goal in the 88th minute by Dominique Badji. His shot from the left side on a counterattack beat New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who got a finger on the ball but not enough to push the shot wide. It was Badji’s eighth goal of the season, tops on the team.
Badji, who scored the game-winning goal at Houston last week in stoppage time, won a ball at midfield and made a 50-yard run to produce the equalizer.
“Towards the end of the game, we just have to be aggressive, there’s nothing really to lose at that point,” Badji said. “When I had the ball I knew I was just going to go to goal no matter what. The first half, we were playing a lot in our half, a lot more than we want to. Second half, if we want to score goals, we have to play in that half, and I think we were a lot more aggressive in taking chances.”
For much of the game, the visitors frustrated the Rapids with a precise short-passing game. Primed for an MLS Cup run with an assortment of world-class players and the second-best record in the league, NYCFC took a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute when midfielder Thomas McNamara took a crack at a goal from long range. Left free 25 yards from the goal with no one in front of him after maneuvering around Rapids midfielder Jared Watts, McNamara split the center backs and fired a missile which found the netting as goalkeeper Tim Howard dived in vain to intervene.
“They’ve got a lot of really good guys at finding space in little pockets,” said Rapids right back Eric Miller. “I think he found it a little deeper, beat a guy and then just hit a world-class shot.”
NYCFC nearly doubled its lead five minutes later when midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who starred for AC Milan, Juventus and the Italian national team before coming to New York in 2015, hit the cross bar on a free kick over the Rapids’ wall.
The Rapids did create other chances. Badji, who was playing as a lone striker, got free on the left wing and whipped a shot that forced a save out of Johnson in the 14th minute. Midfielder Marlon Hairston took a chance on a long-range effort in the 40th minute that forced another save.
Howard came up big in the 54th minute, making a pair of short-range bang-bang saves in rapid-fire succession that kept the Rapids in the game. Howard finished with four saves on the evening.
“We’re happy with the goal at the end,” said interim coach Steve Cooke. “Obviously we wanted two, disappointed not to win the game, but second half they responded well, they came out with a lot more energy, a lot more forward momentum.”