The odds were stacked against the Colorado Rapids from the beginning. We were missing a handful of regular players due to injury, red cards, and international duty. The Rapids were 1-7-0 in Portland. The Timbers were sitting on the playoff line with 41 points, while the Rapids are nowhere near a playoff-caliber team. The positive we had heading into this game was that the Portland Timbers were down to Steve Clark in goal, with Jake Gleeson and Jeff Attinella both out.
And so we started with a line-up that looked a little different than we are used to, but it didn’t seem to be that terrible:
Overall, the Rapids owned possession with 55.9% compared to Portland’s 44.1% and Tim Howard was tested early, with two shots from the Timbers in the first five minutes of the game. In the 11th minute, Jeremy Ebobisse put the ball in the back of the net off a through ball from Andy Polo, but he was called offside. It was close, but VR determined that he was off by about a shoulder.
Jack McBean made a couple offside runs himself, and in the 30th minute Diego Valeri scored, but was also called back due to being a step offside.
The Burgundy Boys held off the Timbers for the rest of the first half, but right before halftime, Edgar Castillo makes the decision to stay up instead of slide tackling Sebastián Blanco, which allowed Blanco to dribble around him and pass the ball to Ebobisse. Ebobisse did score this time to put the Timbers up 1-0.
(You may notice in the replay that Andy Polo brought the ball down with his arm in the midfield before passing the ball out to Blanco on the wing.)
Ten minutes into the second half, Caleb Calvert (who was called back from Charlotte Independence earlier last week) subbed in for Shkelzen Gashi. In the 56th minute, Clark took out Jack McBean in the box and a penalty was called. Of course, the VAR was consulted, but then it started to take longer than one might expect. The head referee walked over to the monitor and could be seen reviewing a potential foul at the top of the 18. The ref determined that McBean had fouled Liam Ridgewell prior to being fouled in the box and they rescinded the PK call and gave the Timbers the ball.
In the 65th minute, Diego Valeri ran in and blasted in a header off a cross from Blanco, earning his 10th goal of the season (Valeri also has 10 assists this year). This time, Blanco blew past Johan Blomberg and Danny Wilson while Valeri snuck into the box unmarked to put Portland up 2-0.
In the 71st minute, 17-year-old homegrown Cole Bassett made his MLS debut, subbing in for Kortne Ford. Bassett looked confident, connected passes, and ran into open space. After the game, Bassett said “It’s definitely a proud moment for me and my family because I’ve worked so hard for this for so many years. I’m really proud to make my debut but I wish it could’ve ended in a better result because we deserved more.”
The Rapids got off three shots and had a few good looks, but weren’t able to capitalize on anything and the game ended 2-0 Portland, extending their unbeaten run to three games.
Jack Price felt as though the Rapids dominated the game, but “but it’s that final third. Every week we keep doing the right things and then those mistakes cost us against a good team.”
Head Coach Anthony Hudson added that “I think for large parts of the game, most of the first half and parts of the second half, at times I thought we were the better team. The contrast was in the final third. When they were in the final third Tim had to make a save and tonight I don’t think we had enough quality in the final third and I don’t think we were a threat in the final third. Other than that, the overall game was very good and the players never stopped all the way to end. We were unlucky with the penalty at that moment and at the end I thought we could have potentially nicked on as well, we had a couple of chances. That was [the] difference in the final third from both teams.”
A lack of finishing in the final third should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched a Rapids game this season. With no quality starting forwards and a complete lack of offensive spark, the Rapids have struggled to score goals for years. Until they start signing proven offensive threats (and not from some obscure or lower league), nothing is going to change.