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Rapids go unbeaten in Vegas, build confidence as MLS season approaches

Colorado earned a win and draw in back-to-back games vs. the Lights.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at FC Cincinnati Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

This preseason has been up and down for Colorado Rapids’ fans who haven’t been able to actually watch any matches. We’ve just been sitting at home, wondering what was going on. The Burgundy Boys went 1-1 in their first two preseason matches, losing to new MLS-side FC Cincinnati and beating Ventura County FC. They then lost 2-0 to Toronto FC before heading to Nevada to play Las Vegas Lights FC.

Colorado had two scrimmages scheduled against the Lights on February 16: the first was closed to the public and the second was open to the public, so a handful of Rapids fans made the trip down there to get a look at the new players.

Game 1 vs. Las Vegas

In the first game, the Rapids beat the Lights 3-0, scoring all three goals within three minutes. Shkelzen Gashi earned a brace, while homegrown Matt Hundley added on in between Gashi’s goals. You can see all three goals on the MLS recap here.

Rapids Line-up: Andre Rawls, Sebastian Anderson*, Sam Raben, Alejandro Padilla*, Luke Hansen*, Armando Muñoz*, Nana Boateng, Johan Blomberg, Shkelzen Gashi, Matt Hundley, Niki Jackson

*indicates Academy players

Game 2 vs. Las Vegas

Just a couple of hours later, the two teams faced off again in front of the fans for a 2-2 draw. Lights players came out donning Tim Howard beards in tribute to his final season and though Howard didn’t end up playing, he did make an appearance. Apparently, Howard started warming up and then decided not to play in the game after something felt off, so third-string keeper Andre Rawls played between the sticks for both matches that day.

Vegas got on the board first in the 44th minute, but Dillon Serna quickly followed up with one for the good guys in 45+1. Nicolas Mezquida put the Rapids up 2-1 in the 60th minute only to have Vegas’ Christian Torres respond in the 63rd minute. This was the first time Sam Nicholson, Kei Kamara, and Deklan Wynne have seen the pitch this preseason. See the goals on the MLS recap here.

Rapids Line-up: Andre Rawls; Sam Nicholson (Dillon Serna 34’), Keegan Rosenberry, Axel Sjoberg, Deklan Wynne (Sam Raben 68’); Nicolas Mezquida, Jack Price, Kellyn Acosta, Cole Bassett; Kei Kamara (Andre Shinyashiki 46’), Diego Rubio

After the matches, Anthony Hudson said: “Games like today are so important. It is a real test. I think what we are doing is in every game we are seeing progressions on how we want to play.” Mezquida added “I feel really good, we just have to work on the shape that coach wants. We already have the idea, so we just need to focus and to perfect on what the coach wants. I 100% believe we will do it and will be ready for the first game.”

I wasn’t able to attend preseason this year, but from what I’ve heard, Gashi is looking fit, Mezquida is more impressive than his stats might indicate, and shots are looking better this year. Kamara is emerging as a leader and it’s good to see the guys having some fun. All in all, it sounds like things are coming together. There have been a few major injuries and plenty of minor tweaks (which is why we haven’t seen some guys get much playing time), but it sounds like they’re being conservative and not pushing anyone too hard so that everyone is available on March 2nd.

My main concern at this point is that they haven’t practiced at sea level, but we have an interview with Chad Kolarcik, Head of Sports Science & Performance, coming up next week that explains more about how they’ve been preparing for the regular season.

The Rapids wrap-up preseason with two matches vs. LA Galaxy: Feb. 23 (open to the public) and Feb. 24 (closed to the public). The squad returns to Colorado on Feb. 27, three days before the home opener vs. the Portland Timbers.