COMMERCE CITY, Colorado - The Colorado Rapids twice overcame a first-half deficit and defeated a 10-man Isidro Metapan 3-2 Wednesday, rallying to claim the CONCACAF Champions League Group B opener for both teams.
In his first match since suffering a serious knee injury in the MLS Cup in November, Mac Kandji scored a pair of first-half goals and set up Andre Akpan's winner five minutes into the second half.
Metapan was awarded a penalty kick less than a minute into the match when Colorado defender Drew Moor pulled down Cristhian Bautista from behind. Moor was issued a yellow card and Allan Kardeck Dos Santos converted the penalty, burying the ball to the right of goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who jumped the other way.
The Rapids, though, equalized in the 16th minute as Kandji got on the end of Scott Palguta's cross from the left flank and put a downward header past Metapan goalkeeper Miguel Montes.
After Kandji forced a corner kick, Colorado nearly took the lead in the 21st minute. But Akpan's attempted bicycle kick from the top of the box was blocked and Kandji was unable to latch onto the rebound.
Capitalizing on a poor outlet pass by Pickens, Pablo Suarez gave Metapan a 2-1 lead in the 25th minute as he chipped the helpless keeper from 20 meters.
Four minutes later, Colorado won a free kick from just outside the left side of the box, but Jeff Larentowicz's attempt was blocked by the Metapan defense. Sanna Nyassi followed with a long-distance attempt that also caromed off the wall in the 30 minute.
Two minutes later, Joseph Nane's left-footed blast from the top of the 18 was parried over the bar by Montes.
Metapan appeared to be in position to extend its lead in the 38th minute when Bautista went down after apparently being tripped then stepped on by Moor on the right side of the penalty area.
Barbadian referee Trevor Taylor cited Bautista for simulation following a lengthy delay as the Metapan medical staff tended to Bautista.
In the 41st minute, Metapan was reduced to 10 when Kardek Dos Santos was given a issued a red for a collision with Moor and leading with his arm on a high 50-50 ball.
Just before halftime, Kandji struck for his second, following Akpan's header from Nane's endline cross and tapped it into the net to level the score and end a wild opening 45 minutes.
Three minutes into the second half, Ernesto Aquino was carded for a tackle from behind on Kandji, but the Rapids weren't able to capitalize on the set piece.
Akpan, though, would capitalize in the 50th minute. After Kandji danced into the box, Wells Thompson was unable to unleash a shot, but the ball rolled to an unmarked Akpan, who pounced from eight meters to put the American side ahead 3-2.
Thompson nearly added an insurance goal in the 73rd minute, getting behind the Metapan defense and putting his shot on frame from 20 meters. But Montes did well to make the save as the ball deflected out for a corner.
Metapan earned four corner kicks - its first of the match -- in the final five minutes, but were unable to capitalize as the Rapids debuted in the confederation championship with a victory - completing a first-round sweep for U.S. clubs in the competition.
Colorado heads to San Pedro Sula to take on Real Espana August 23 in the second round, while Metapan hosts Santos Laguna a day later. Santos Laguna defeated Real Espana 3-2 in the group opener Tuesday at Estadio Corona.