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#SnowClasico3: What it was like at the coldest game in MLS history

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One fan shares his experience surviving the match last weekend.

John A. Babiak - @Photog_JohnB

Pain is temporary. Memories are forever.

Truer words have never been spoken about the infamous SnowClasico series here in Colorado. Between the Costa Rica USMNT game in 2013, the NYRB game in 2016, and the game last weekend between the Colorado Rapids and Portland Timbers, we have been host to some of the most iconic matches in US soccer of the last decade. Those who have attended these games in person have earned some serious bragging rights.

So, what is it like actually going to a SnowClasico match?

With the temperature at 18 degrees at kick-off, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park has officially hosted the coldest MLS game, as well as the coldest game between any two North American teams thanks to the CCL match against Toronto last year where kick-off was an absolutely frigid three degrees.

Unlike last year though, we saw a true SnowClasico, as the field was buried in snow during the second half. As my brother would say, you’d have to be either brave or sort of dumb to go to a game like that. Personally, I prefer a healthy mix of both.

The day started early for me, as I was at the tailgate before the game. Sure, it was a bit cold outside and having a decent amount of wind certainly made things a bit uncomfortable, but it didn’t make it unenjoyable and it wasn’t anything that we haven’t dealt with before. Heck, I was still drinking cold beer before the game.

The real pain and suffering started once we were inside the stadium. That was when the temperature fell to 18 degrees with the wind chill dropping it even further to single digits. Our breath was fogging up. Teeth were chattering. Bones were chilled. It wasn’t an easy time. People were layered in sweatshirts and jackets with blankets piled on top of that.

Throughout the game, plenty of people got up and left early. Honestly, you can’t really fault them. For a casual fan, it’s hard to enjoy the match when you can’t feel your toes. It was a painful night and if you have young children, they probably wanted to go home. The wind and snow made sure that there wasn’t any escape from the weather either, so you had essentially two choices: head back to the car and go home or tough it out and stay there. I chose to stay and had to deal with the consequences of not bringing hand warmers. (Let’s just say it took awhile for my hands to warm up after the game.)

From the stands, you could see the snow piling up on the players’ heads. Then there was the referee who wasn’t as prepared for the SnowClasico as he should have been:

But despite the bitter cold, how was the game?

AWESOME.

The best part about SnowClasico 3 is that this game will go down in Rapids history as an all-time classic match. Seeing Kei Kamara score in the 16th minute felt like the promises of attack-minded style of soccer were finally coming true. Having Alex Sjoberg sent off due to a controversial red card was incredibly disappointing, but laid the thread to have the game be just that much more memorable. Watching the Timbers sink an easy rebound off of the PK was disheartening, only made worse watching them sink the corner kick at the end of the first half.

Once the second half started, however, we saw something we didn’t really see last year. In 2018, we would have bunkered down, resigned to our fate. During halftime, I had flashbacks to the Game Which Shall Not Be Named, and for a time thought that we would have gotten a second red card and ended up with a five-goal deficit against the visiting team at home. Instead, we got treated to a little bit of the Benny Feilhaber Show. He tied up the game less than a minute into the second half, and even though we were still a man down, everything felt like it was in our hands. We were playing an exciting type of soccer, and as the snow began to fall harder and harder, we still kept our spirits up.

Hopes were dashed when the Timbers once again took the lead in the 66th minute thanks to an unfortunate own-goal from Deklan Wynne. We continued to watch the game as the minutes dragged on, sad to see that we may be leaving from the stadium without a single point to open the season. But, we still kept fighting. We still saw a team that wasn’t willing to give up. All that coming from players who didn’t have the comparative luxury of jackets, scarves, hand warmers, and plenty of extra layers.

If the game had ended as a 2-3 loss, strangely, I still would have been okay with that. Losing to the team that made it to the MLS Cup final by going down to 10 men in incredibly inclement weather would have been nothing to be ashamed about. Along with that, we managed to see sparks of incredible talent from our almost entirely overhauled roster. Most fans would have left feeling quietly confident about the rest of the coming season. We would have left with good memories, even if we had a bit of a sour taste in our mouths.

But there we were. Down by one, less than a minute to go in regulation time—things weren’t looking good. Yet, leave it to our draftee, Andre Shinyashiki, to go and score in the dying seconds to tie it up to steal a point right from under the Timbers’ nose (and in a short-sleeved shirt, no less!).

Suddenly, we were tied up and the Timbers had next to no chance with walking away with three points now. A few short seconds of game time later and the final whistle blew. We had ended a game in a 3-3 tie, a result we hadn’t earned against Portland since 2016. After the game, Benny Feilhaber called the game “crazy” and said, “it felt like I was back in fifth grade playing tackle football on a snow day, so it didn’t even feel like a real game.”

Whether it’s a concert or a soccer game, you always have the potential to miss something epic if you leave before it is truly over. This game was no different. We may have frozen our hindquarters off, we may have lost feeling to certain appendages, and we definitely appreciated our heated homes after the game, but we walked away with memories that I’m sure we’ll all cherish. There’s something to say about this state and these fans when a supporter will willingly take his shirt off in well below freezing temperatures in the wind and snow to show this team how much he loves them.

I absolutely adore everything about #SnowClasico3, especially the final seconds. Having a local draftee on a team that ended up nearly bottom of the table punch the visiting team who last season made it to the MLS Cup final in the gut in the final moments of the game, in a short-sleeved jersey in below-freezing weather with the orange ball and a field piling up with snow is just the absolute peak of MLS.