A big shakeup to the Colorado Rapids starting eleven for Saturday night’s home tussle with the Portland Timbers saw Bryan Acosta and Max begin the match as injuries, and player rotation were prevalent this week. An aggressive-looking front four came out looking to pressure the visitors with Max, Gyassi Zardes, Diego Rubio slotting just behind, and Jonathan Lewis facing down the Portland defenders.
A nice buildup began in the 20th minute for Colorado just inside the Portland penalty area as Lewis’ little backheel was left for Mark-Anthony Kaye to try and guide it to the left post. The ball was tipped away for a corner kick, which looked to provide the perfect delivery to Lalas Abubakar to head home. However, VAR was utilized, and the goal was waved off by the referee for a very sketchy offsides call on Lewis, who wasn’t involved in the slightest, and play remained scoreless.
That disappointment didn’t last long though as a yellow-card foul on Lewis gave Colorado a freekick 24 yards out and just left of the penalty area. Rubio hammered a ball past the wall, freezing Portland’s keeper Aljaž Ivačič, and taking the lead for real this time.
The Rapids kept the pressure on enough to really thwart much possession from the Timbers as the half wore on. Some nice crossing efforts gave Keegan Rosenberry and Lewis room to run on both sides to at least occupy Portland’s defense much of the time.
A nervy moment towards the end of the first half saw a short Portland cross from the left float inches over the head of Auston Trusty in the Rapids box, but Laria’s point-blank volley was stuffed by Colorado keeper William Yarbrough without much issue.
The Rapids showed their hand of trying to grab the important next goal in the match out of the locker room. The Burgundy Boys immediately jumped back into attack mode to start the second half as Rubio patiently carried through the middle, then slotted left for Lewis to take on two defenders into the box. Johnny’s blast from inside was parried away by the keeper, though. Not a minute later, Rosenberry threaded a nice ball to the near post from the right, but the pass was a foot past Zardes hustling into position and fell to the keeper.
Colorado kept the heat on when Zardes did well to control a nice feed into the center of the box. He turned to find a bit of space but his shot was fired inches wide of the right post. Michael Barrios then subbed in for Max and right away, showed what his pace and vision can do. He spotted Lewis running on the left side but the through ball ran just in front of his Rapids teammate and into touch.
Things took a turn for the worst in the 63rd minute for Colorado. Rubio was whistled for his second yellow card foul on the sideline, equating to a red card ejection, giving the Rapids a tough task for the final 30 minutes to defend a man down.
Barrios then presented Lewis a perfect ball on a platter in the 69th minute as he ran towards the keeper inside the box on the left, but Johnny’s shot was stuffed bravely and the one-goal advantage remained. Defensive subs came on for the Rapids in the presence of Drew Moor and Gustavo Vallecilla in the 74th minute as Colorado looked to stonewall the Timbers and preserve the shaky lead down a man.
Yarbrough went airborne in the 83rd minute to preserve the lead for Colorado. A Portland cross floated in fairly soft allowing Will to get to it without as much trouble as one would have thought initially. Moreno then came closest for the Timbers in the 89th minute as he lined up a shot stepping just inside the Rapids penalty area on the left, but he sailed it over the crossbar.
Kaye then sealed the deal for the home side as Barrios finally got his assist on the night. Smoothly picking out the Canadian running in the center, Kaye calmly touched around his defender, spun onto his left foot and curled in a beauty inside the left post for the 2-0 lead. Colorado then rode out the remaining minutes of stoppage time for a gritty, but fairly controlled win on the night in what many fans deemed the “revenge game” after Portland’s win in the 2021 playoffs on Thanksgiving Day.