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Game Recap: Colorado Rapids 1, Sporting Kansas City 0

An early goal and non-stop defending gave Colorado a much needed win at home against SKC.

MLS: Sporting KC at Colorado Rapids Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It was back to the future for the Colorado Rapids. Playing a defense-first, possession-almost-never match Saturday night, the boys from Commerce City came away 1-0 winners at home against Sporting Kansas City.

The Rapids opened the scoring early, as Kortne Ford pounded home a headed goal in just the 11th minute off a free kick from Shkelzen Gashi. The goal was Ford’s first ever professional goal.

From then on, Colorado sat 10 men behind the ball for the duration and Sporting set up camp in the Rapids half until the final whistle. SKC recorded a 73% to 27% possession advantage, and outshot the Rapids 25 to 6. The vast majority of their shots were either blocked or off-target.

SKC had four excellent scoring opportunities on the night, but failed to convert. In the 18th minute, Micheal Azira knocked down Gerso Fernandez from behind, earning a free kick. The Rapids, mindful of the goal surrendered last week when their wall failed to jump on a free kick, blocked the shot with a perfectly timed leap, then blocked Benny Feilhaber’s second effort once more.

Only a minute later, Bobby Burling knocked down Benny Feilhaber again from nearly the same spot, earning a yellow card. This time it was Jimmy Medranda with the shot, and this time it cleared the wall, but sailed high.

In the 28th minute, Feilhaber laced a perfect ground pass wide right to Jimmy Medranda. Tim Howard had come out to close down the angle, and Medranda chipped the USMNT keeper over his left shoulder. An emergency dive by Bobby Burling headed the ball off the line, preserving the 1-0 lead.

Sporting’s last great chance came in the 74th minute on a corner kick. Graham Zusi’s corner came to Latif Blessing for a golden opportunity at a volleyed shot directly in the center of the 18-yard box, but Blessing’s shot skied twenty rows into Centennial 38’s section.

The final minutes saw one last flurry of action, as Sporting desperately tried to level the score. Roger Espinoza got too zealous when he went to tackle Kevin Doyle from behind, scissoring his legs and earning a yellow. Espinoza voiced his displeasure at match official Hilario Grajeda, an item that PRO referees have warned players would be a point of emphasis this season, as Caleb Calvert can tell you. Grajeda pulled a second yellow for a red, and Espinoza was off. Ninety seconds later, the game was over and the Rapids earned just their third win of 2017.

Of note for the Rapids was the play of Kortne Ford, who had two last-ditch defensive efforts that were critical contributions to the ball club in addition to his game-winning goal. Also having a good outing was Marlon Hairston, who played the role of a defensive-fullback well, locking down Gerso Fernandez and the overlapping Seth Sinovic. The win also signaled a tactical departure from the avowed desire to become “more offensive” in nature, as Colorado had said they would do several weeks ago. Pablo Mastroeni’s men were content to concede possession to Peter Vermes’ team, defend, and hang on for the win. Like so many games in the successful 2016 season, it worked.

Next week when Colorado plays Columbus Crew, we shall see which Rapids team shows up: the defensive, deeply bunkered team of this week, the attacking, pressing, aggressive team from their 3-0 win two weeks ago against San Jose, or that other Rapids team with the eight losses.