On a warm night in Dallas, the Rapids came to Texas amidst a six-game stretch with only one measly win in need of a turnaround. And they got it.
Both teams came in without several of their key players. Dallas kept key attackers Michael Barrios and Mauro Diaz on the bench ahead of their midweek US Open Cup final against the New England Revolution. Meanwhile, the Rapids were missing Shkelzen Gashi, Bobby Burling, and Jermaine Jones to injury and Marco Pappa due to illness. Kevin Doyle started the night on the bench, replaced up top by Dominique Badji.
Colorado played organized, safe soccer for the first frame, with only 38% possession to Dallas’ 62% through the first half, defending deep. They pushed Dallas into the corners often and fended off crosses throughout the half. On offense, they stayed safe and played it long from back to front. The Rapids never put a ball on frame for Dallas’ keeper, and Rapids keeper Tim Howard was hardly tested through the first 45 either. The two teams entered the locker room scoreless, and Dallas brought on creative playmaker Michael Barrios to start the second half.
Dallas controlled the ball through the opening of the half. But against the run of play, a quickly-taken Sebastian Le Toux throw-in found the feet of Dominique Badji, who made a run behind the Dallas midfield and through Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman in central defense. Just inside the box, he neatly shifted the ball to his
left right foot, pegged a quick shot, and slotted it to the left side of the net to make it 1-0, Colorado, at the 52nd minute.
The game opened up for 10 minutes as Dallas began to stretch out in search of an equalizer. They nearly got one in the 63rd, but Tim Howard did a very Tim Howard thing and the Rapids would hang on.
The Rapids bunkered deep and held up the ball when given the chance to possess it. The game turned physical, as a flurry of fouls and cards were issued between the 68th and 90th minutes, and Kevin Doyle, who had only come on in the 80th minute, limped off at the beginning of stoppage time with a foot/ankle injury. Jared Watts also came up limping on more than one occasion, but finished out the game for the Rapids.
A tense final few minutes for the Rapids ended with excellent defending inside the box to clear, and Dallas couldn’t find a way to thread the ball through the forest of legs fronting the goal. Match official Robert Sibiga blew the whistle, and against the odds, the Rapids took all three points on the road against an FC Dallas team that has been only recently talking about getting MLS’ first-ever ‘treble’ of the US Open Cup, Supporters Shield, and MLS Cup. That’s starting to look a little less likely now.
Meanwhile, the Rapids turn around their recent luck with the quintessential Rapids 2016 performance: physical, gritty, defensive, and not-at-all pretty.
And that is a beautiful thing.