Vancouver Whitecaps FC Alain Rochat, right, fights for control of the ball with Colorado Rapids Hendry Thomas during first half of MLS soccer action in Vancouver on Sunday, September 23, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
VANCOUVER - Second-half substitute Jamie's Smith's goal in the 86th minute gave the Colorado Rapids a 2-2 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS action Sunday.
Smith put home a shot from just inside the 18-yard box after the ball bounced a couple of times off the feet of Vancouver's Alain Rochat and Young-Pyo Lee.
With the goal, Colorado (9-18-3) avoided a 10th straight road loss that would have extended a club record.
The Whitecaps (10-12-8) remained winless in seven games but moved two points up on idle Dallas in the race for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Rapids improved their playoff hopes slightly, moving within six points of Dallas and staying eight back of Vancouver.
Omar Cummings also scored for the Rapids. Rochat and second-half substitute Kenny Miller replied for the Whitecaps, who overcame a 1-0 first-half deficit only to be disappointed in the end.
The Whitecaps controlled much of the play but were robbed frequently by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
In an attempt to generate more offence, Vancouver coach Martin Rennie put Alain Rochat, usually a defender, in midfield for the second straight game. Jordan Harvey took Rochat's usual left defender spot.
Pickens blocked a Barry Robson shot from about 30 yards in the third minute.
Two minutes later, Richards and Marvell Wynne collided heavily while going for a through ball intended for the Whitecap. They went off briefly before returning.
In the 27th minute, Pickens dove to stop a Camilo shot from 20 yards following a turnover. The Colorado goalkeeper came up big again in the 31st minute as he came out of the 18-yard box and headed a loose ball away from a charging Richards.
Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton had little to do in the first 34 minutes as the Caps kept the ball in the Colorado half most of the time. But the Rapids capitalize on a quick counter-attack in the 35th as Cummings put in a rebound after Martin Rivero's rolling shot hit the left post and the ball caromed to him on the right flank.
Six minutes later, Pickens committed robbery again, with a diving save on Mattocks from close range as he tried to put in a pass from Richards. Knighton limited Colorado's lead to 1-0 just before half-time as he stopped Jaime Castrillon's header off a corner kick.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie tried to inject more offence at the start of the second half by substituting striker Miller for defender Martin Bonjour. As a result, Rochat moved back to a central defender role.
But the Whitecaps could not attack with the same authority early in the first half. Despite controlling play for most of the second half, their offence was disjointed.
But Rochat managed to draw Vancouver even in the 64th minute as he flicked in Gershon Koffie's shot off a long Camilo corner kick. Just before the 66-minute mark, Pickens robbed Mattocks on a breakaway.
But Miller, much maligned for his lack of production since arriving in July from English League Championship side Cardiff City, gave Vancouver the lead about two minutes later. He ran on to a through ball from Robson and, from just inside the 18-yard box, put in a shot off Pickens' hand.
Miller almost increased Vancouver's lead in the 83rd minute as he sneaked through defenders and fired a shot off Pickens from close range. Afterwards, Pickens shouted at his defenders, urging them to maintain their shape.
But Colorado got a couple of chances to draw even — and succeeded on the second attempt. After Knighton caught a Conor Casey header, Smith got a couple of fortuitous bounces and forged the deadlock that stood up until the final whistle — after Knighton stopped Cummings' shot from inside the 18 in stoppage time.
Notes: Vancouver's Dane Richards will be suspended for Saturday's game in Seattle for receiving his eighth yellow card of the season. He took down Luis Zapata hard in the 22nd minute. ... Rochat faces a one-game suspension for his next yellow card. ... Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert of Niagara Falls, Ont., sat out with a thigh injury sustained in practice. Defender Andy O'Brien, questionable due to a groin strain, dressed as a substitute. He has also been dealing with knee tendinitis. Left winger Omar Salgado is close to returning from a broken foot, but did not suit up. ... Colorado played without defender Anthony Wallas (torn Achilles) midfielders Pablo Matroeni (headaches) and Davy Armstrong (undisclosed personal medical issue) and striker Edu (foot).