American soccer supporters salivated at the thought of the beginning of the 2019 Major League Soccer season. For Colorado Rapids supporters, whether you braved the cold, watched on Altitude or ESPN+, or listened to the inimitable Connor Cape on AM 950—this was a unique and unbelievable start to our season.
This week’s edition of Rapid Fire will capture the high (and low) points of Saturday’s match that led to what Abbie noted as a hard-fought 3-3 draw against the defending Western Conference champions Portland Timbers.
MLS notes that the attendance was 12,717 (this is obviously tickets sold rather than bodies actually present) and the temperature at opening kickoff was 18 degrees. Kei Kamara, however, corrected Stu Holden on Twitter by telling him it was 12 degrees.
Kudos to the fans who came to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (and stuck it out!). I watched on Altitude and could hear Centennial 38 loud and clear.
Strong tifo work from C38
Again, kudos to C38 for the tifo at the north end. With the spectacular rendering of players behind the font of the original Colorado Rapids logo was a true stroke of creativity that we’ve come to expect from C38. Well done, everyone.
The Colorado Rapids played more than 65 minutes down one player. This was reflected in the statistics: While the Timbers outshot the Rapids 24-14, they only fared one better with shots on target (7-6). They also roasted the Rapids on corner kicks (17-4). Tim Howard was in incredible form with five saves, including a penalty save that he unfortunately could not push away, but rather pushed back toward the Timbers’ Diego Valeri for a goal.
The touch, the cross, the run, the score
My initial reaction to the Rapids first goal:
As you saw in the video from the game recap, the touch from Dillon Serna (who played a great match) to hit Kellyn Acosta on that run to create space from players to make that cross was an absolute beauty. This epitomized the entire game, where the Rapids looked crisper, more attack-minded, and (given they were down a man) played on-their-toes defense that kept the Rapids in the game.
That red card
Sean covered the red card given to the Rapids’ Axel Sjoberg in the 27th minute in more detail here, but to me, this red card seemed harsh. First, to expect Sjoberg to keep his arm to his side when he’s making a motion like this is expecting too much. Second, while he did prevent the goal from going in with his arm it was not intentional and the awarding of the penalty kick was enough punishment. To send him off was not necessary. Watch this again and tell us what you think.
The response showed the difference in this season
Yes, it’s only one game, but the Rapids kept attacking. Many supporters felt that they would wilt, park the bus, and try to keep it close. But using the snow, cold, and altitude to their advantage, the goals came from the major acquisitions made by General Manager Padraig Smith this offseason (Kei Kamara, Benny Feilhaber, and Andre Shinyashiki). Yes, it’s only one game, but Smith has to feel good about the energy, experience, and drive each of these players bring to the pitch.
The Rapids had a design and a strategy and an attack-mindedness that eluded them in 2018. Every ball mattered, whether on offense or defense. Feilhaber’s goal set the tone in that regard in the 46th minute. They would not back down. And for the next 15 minutes, the Rapids looked better with 10 than the Timbers did with 11.
A feel-good ending on two levels
Yes, the Rapids came back and drew under terrible conditions against a good team. But that Andre Shinyashiki goal at the death brought this great response from University of Denver’s Soccer twitter feed:
Should we really be that excited?
A number of supporters wonder if we should really be excited about a tie in the first game of the season at home. In essence, many wonder if we’ve reached such a desperate point as a supporter base that we celebrate ties.
Not all ties are equal. Playing 65 minutes a man down, coming back from behind not once but twice, playing both offense and defense with intensity—this 2019 squad feels very different than the 2018 squad.
But we still have 33 games to go. Next up is Seattle Sounders in Seattle on Saturday.
It was a cold night—but it was nice when the final whistle sounded that a burgundy warmth in our hearts took over.