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Union falls to 0-2 with loss in home opener

What a difference grass, sunshine and 19,000 of your own screaming supporters makes.

The Union gave up two second half goals to Colorado and could not complete a late comeback. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
The Union gave up two second half goals to Colorado and could not complete a late comeback. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

WHAT A difference grass, sunshine and 19,704 of your own screaming supporters make.

Let's rephrase that - should have made.

A dominant performance by the Union, specifically in a first half that saw far too many chances go asunder, still found the club on the losing end of a 2-1 final in its home opener against Colorado yesterday at PPL Park.

The Union controlled the tempo for much of the game before allowing something fluky to ruin an otherwise impressive outing. In this instance, it was a pair of odd occurrences that allowed the Rapids to escape with their second win.

On almost identical plays, the Rapids scored both their goals after Union defenders slipped on the pitch. First was a Carlos Valdes' slip that allowed Colorado forward Omar Cummings to send a cross into the box to an awaiting Jaime Castrillon in the 56th minute. Although it looked as if Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath had a clean chance to snag it out of the air, the ball went through his hands and found Castrillon running onto his first MLS goal. Six minutes later, defender Chris Albright also slipped, allowing forward Tony Cascio to pound the game-winner past MacMath from the outskirts of the 18-yard-box with ease.

"I lost it in the sun a little bit, it was lofted up pretty high," MacMath said. "I got clipped a little bit there, but it's a small play and I have to stay concentrated on making the small plays for a full 90 and doing my best to keep the team in it, and I didn't do that today."

Albright, a Penn Charter graduate, made his debut for the Union in place of captain Danny Califf. Manager Peter Nowak said Califf was recovering from an offseason knee procedure. Albright, who played until the 62nd minute, spoke about the play that allowed Cascio to cash in for Colorado's second goal.

"I got clipped, plain and simple," Albright said. "The referee obviously did not see it. I thought I had position. I don't swing and miss ever. A lot of times you get that call because something obviously happened. I was really disappointed to not get that call. I'll go back and look at it, but he had one hand on my shoulder and just caught a piece of my heel. It was enough. As I'm going to swing and hit the ball out of bounds, that was enough to do what it did."

Colorado's Pablo Mastroeni saw it differently.

"They did a good job of disrupting us and their soccer was very fluid," said the midfielder. "Fortunately for us, the balls came to our guy and he did a good job finishing it."

The second-half inclusion of midfielder Roger Torres in the 62nd minute provided the customary spark the Union receives whenever the diminutive midfielder steps on the pitch. Just 5 minutes into his season debut, Torres found a diving Lionard Pajoy off a cross into the box. Torres, who has repeatedly expressed his desire to evolve past "super-sub" status, sang a much different tune postgame.

"No, I don't mind. As I said before, this is an opportunity and if the coach decides I am going to be a starter then I will give it my best," he said via translator. "We had many chances to score even without me on the field and we fell behind, basically fell asleep, and they made plays we weren't expecting."

Falling asleep may be a tad harsh, given that this Union collective looked miles better than the one that had fans diving into the Delaware after the season-opening loss in Portland. But the Union still is seeking its first points of 2012, despite playing against a 10-man Rapids group after Colorado midfielder and Chestnut Hill Academy grad Jeff Larentowicz was sent off with his second yellow in the 58th minute.

"I think we are all disappointed and I feel really bad for the team," Nowak said. "I thought we played well and we just lost our concentration here and there. Besides those two mistakes [that led to both Colorado goals], I didn't think we had a problem. It wasn't structure or pressure or anything like that, it was just a missing touch here or there or a final pass, but I think overall we played much better than we did in Portland. We just need to take advantage of our opportunities."