*All photos in article and gallery by John A. Babiak (@Photog_JohnB)
The Colorado Rapids’ Special Olympics Unified Team concluded their preseason play last night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with an impressive victory over a strong Colorado Rapids’ Front Office and Soccer Operations team. The contest, the second of two friendlies that the Unified Team has hosted since it was formed this past July and August, took place on the first team’s training pitch before a crowd of supportive spectators.
The Rapids’ Unified Special Olympics Team is represented by athletes Mackenzie Beauvais-Niki, Ulysses Hernandez, Aiden Ramirez, Colton Rice, Arturo Lopez, Scotty Stephens, Zech Steinmetz, Rylan Krems, Michael Bush, and Luke Davidson.
The team’s partner players include Azur Ewari, Samir Mohamed, Enzo Ewari, Becca Jeambey, Lilie and Olivia Stoolman, and Madison Zawacki.
The team is coached and supported by Ben Wrubel, Jason Horton, Kaly Warner, Molly Underly, Taylor Milner, and Caitlin Kinser.
The Rapids Front Office and Operations Team was comprised of Jordan Rothrock, Jared Bernstein, Caitlin Kinser, Bianca Velez, Mike Revollo, Taylor Milner, Brian Crookham, Tyler Bettinger, Jordan Weidman, Omar Gonzalez, Zach Winterberg, Connor Pickett, Blake Williams, and Donovan Webb.
With the sun was setting over the foothills and match play ending in a tie score, the referee pointed to the penalty kick spot and called for a game-ending shootout between the two stellar teams.
The Unified Team sent up their top five strikers as did the Staff Team. The Special Olympians ultimately prevailed, 5-3, both from the penalty kick spot and in front of the net.
Goals came from Michael Bush, Ryland Krems, Aiden Ramirez, Mackenzie Beauvais-Niki, and Colton Rice. Veteran Unified Team goalkeeper Luke Davidson hissed and snarled at the Rapids’ penalty kick takers. He successfully intimidated Rapids’ Communication Director Omar Gonzalez — who missed wildly with his shot — and then made a spectacular one-handed save on guest player and Colorado Springs Switchbacks General Manager Brian Crookham’s attempt to find the back of the net.
Crookham played a skillful holding midfielder role throughout the game and was presumably also on the pitch to gain valuable first-hand knowledge about the Rapids’ Special Olympians to share the Switchbacks’ Unified Team’s coaching staff.
The Switchbacks’ and Rapids’ Unified Teams will face off this Wednesday evening (September 15) after the USL Championship Colorado Springs team host the El Paso Locomotives at Weidner Field in downtown Colorado Springs. The Rapids’ Team will then reciprocate and host the Switchbacks’ Team at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on October 23 following Rapids vs. Portland MLS match.
Following the scrimmage, Rapids’ Special Olympics partner player Samir Mohamed said, “I think it is not only important to develop skills and be in shape, but chemistry is really big. When it comes to big clubs, scrimmages, team meetings, dinners, and getting to know each other is important.” The swift striker added, “We are looking forward to the game against the Switchbacks coming back with a win, and represent... the Rapids in the right way.”
As for their first match and opponent, Molly Underly, one of the team’s assistant coaches said “It is hard to know. They are a first-time team. But I think they better be scared. We have practiced well together and have really come together.”