In the first of many must-wins for the Colorado Rapids, coming out on the front foot was a necessity for the home side as they couldn’t let the game come to them in a desperate Western Conference showdown.
Colorado got off to a running start in the 3rd minute. After a nice buildup from Danny Wilson, Jonathan Lewis, and Gyassi Zardes found Diego Rubio running towards the Vancouver box, the Rapids leading scorer whistled one just wide left of goal.
After not having much early joy, Vancouver struck first in the 9th minute following a fairly innocuous-looking, lofted ball that eluded Lalas Abubakar’s swinging leg trying to clear. Brian White ran to the loose ball and poked it past an onrushing William Yarbrough for the opening goal, and the Rapids fell behind early once again.
Credit to the Rapids, though, as they didn’t let that score drive them into a hole or dampen the energy to push forward. In the 21st minute, a coolly struck ball from Zardes on the right side evened up the score. Felipe Gutierrez received in the middle of the box, calmly controlled and drew defenders, then slid it just right for Zardes to finish neatly to the far post.
Much of Colorado’s first half play was pushed down the left side in some fashion as the mismatch had been spotted and targeted.
In the 31st minute, through pure willpower and effort, Lewis earned Colorado a rare penalty kick as he held off Veselinovic on a long possession run down the left. As he crossed into the Vancouver box, he was knocked to the ground setting up Rubio from the spot. Diego made no mistake hammering his shot to the upper left corner and the 2-1 lead.
The second half got off to a rough start, literally for Gutierrez as he took an elbow to the mouth defending in the middle. After cleaning off the blood, and no punishment for Vancouver, play continued. A scrum in front of Vancouver’s goal in the 60th minute gave Guiterrez a chance to increase the lead. Too many white shirts between him and goal wouldn’t allow it.
Right back down the field, the Whitecaps were stonewalled by Yarbrough from point-blank range. White fended off Wilson and stung a header right to the Colorado keeper and the nice reaction save. Just 2 minutes later, the crossbar was cruel to Vancouver’s Pedro Vite as the visitors began finding much more space inside the 18yd box of Colorado.
The 68th minute saw the long-awaited return of Captain Jack Price, along with Michael Barrios, in order to provide some fresh possession for Colorado and keep the increasing pressure off the defending end.
Lewis was having no more of Vancouver’s hope of an equalizer. In the 79th minute, Jonny carried into the right side of the box towards the touchline and roofed a blast to the left post for the comfortable 3-1 lead and some much-needed breathing room.
The job was done for the night, and game one of five desperately requiring points to the Rapids, as Colorado showed stout resiliency after the start. This is the type of effort fans and the team will need to see to run out the season for sure.