Colorado Rapids 2 extended their preseason unbeaten streak to four games following a tightly-contested 1-1 draw against the University of Denver on Field 22 at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park complex Sunday morning. Kévin Cabral opened the scoring in the 34th minute thanks to an excellent cross from Sebastian Anderson, but the rotated reserves eventually surrendered a late set piece goal that saw the 105-minute outing end in a dead heat.
Cabral, who started at striker for the reserves after a half-hour cameo for the first team the night before, and Anderson were two of ten first team players fielded by R2 manager Erik Bushey in the scrimmage. The French Designated Player was joined in the attack by Calvin Harris and Braian Galván—two other first team forwards that have struggled for minutes through two MLS matchdays in 2023.
Bushey’s midfield included R2 mainstay Robinson Aguirre to start the match, and the Salvadoran International paired up with Oliver Larraz to act as dual eights ahead of usual first team midfielder Bryan Acosta. The trio sat in front of a back line featuring new first team left back Alex Gersbach and homegrown Sebastian Anderson on the flanks. 2021 SuperDraft pick Anthony Markanich and Costa Rican International Daniel Chacón acted as the team’s center back pairing for the first half of the match. Abraham Rodriguez started in goal.
DU’s lineup also included multiple names that should be familiar to those that pay close attention to all levels of soccer in Colorado. Sam Bassett, a Rapids Academy product and brother of Cole Bassett, started in the Pioneers’ midfield. Ronan Wynne, brother of former Rapids defender Deklan Wynne, played nearly 75 minutes for DU at right back. Former R2 goalkeeper and current DU student Isaac Nehme occupied the spot between the posts for the Pios during most of the game.
Rapids 2’s 4-3-3 played similarly to the first team’s approach in 2023, as Bushey’s side attempted to generate the bulk of their chances from the wings. Gersbach and Anderson both made numerous overlapping runs on the flanks next to Harris and Galván—moves which eventually led to Cabral’s opening goal.
Kévin Cabral opened the scoring for R2 today thanks to a good cross from Sebastian Anderson pic.twitter.com/bTvKIofAXw— Joseph Samelson (@jspsam) March 5, 2023
The forward’s finish was fairly pedestrian, as Anderson did the difficult work of beating his man on the flanks ahead of his pitch-perfect cross. Cabral still did well to put his strike on frame and out of the keeper’s reach—something he struggled with during his previous stint with the LA Galaxy.
While R2 continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the first half, Cabral didn’t find himself on the end of any additional chances. DU nearly equalized right before the break thanks to a well-taken free kick from Bassett, but his effort clanged off the crossbar.
Bushey made two changes at the start of the second period, as the reserve manager called Cabral and Galván to the bench to give some game time to Brazilian loanee Caique de Brito Cerqueira and fellow newcomer Marlon Vargas. The changes saw Harris shift to the right wing, which allowed Vargas to play in a more familiar role on the left. The English forward quickly took advantage of his matchup and forced a decent save out of Nehme before the 50th minute.
Caique received excellent service from R2’s fullbacks and wingers, but the youngster wasn’t as confident in taking decisive shots when the chances fell his way. The Pios’ center backs were also quick to make the correct decision in defending the reserves’ opportunities in the second half.
Bushey and DU manager Jamie Franks made a slew of substitutions shortly after the 60th minute. Bryan Acosta and Alex Gersbach saw the bench during the personnel change, and the pair were replaced by R2’s own Daouda Amadou and Daniel Garcia, respectively. The latter change resulted in Markanich shifting to his more familiar spot at left back.
Rapids 2 continued to hold the lion’s share of possession following the changes, and the Pios struggled to keep the pace with Colorado’s youngsters. Markanich didn’t miss a beat when shifting to the left—R2’s chances still primarily came from overloads in wide areas. The Northern Illinois University product was instrumental in creating a solid chance around the 70th minute, but Nehme again stood tall to deny Harris’ attempted finish.
The officiating crew blew the whistle after 75 minutes, and both teams took a break to make wholesale changes ahead of one final 30-minute period. The Pioneers replaced almost their entire squad, while R2 brought on six new players. The trialist keeper that made four saves in the first half of the team’s preseason friendly against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks last week replaced Rodriguez in goal. Logan Batiste, Blake Malone, Steve Flores, Keith Chavarria, and Jackson Travis also entered the game for Anderson, Chacón, Markanich, Aguirre, and Harris.
The changes dramatically altered the course of the game, as both sides initially struggled to re-find their footing with all the new players. R2’s anonymous goalkeeper had to make one save on one long range effort from the Pioneers and Malone had a brief chance on a corner, but neither opportunity was truly threatening.
R2 purposefully went down to ten men after Oliver Larraz played 90 minutes. The Pios were able to use their numerical superiority to their advantage on a corner kick just two minutes later when the visitors finished off a chaotic chance created by Kyle McGowan. The equalizer brought DU level at 1-1 with less than a quarter-hour to go, and that’s where the score remained until the officials blew the final whistle at the 105th minute.
Rapids 2 will finish off their preseason slate of warm-ups with two more scrimmages against Northern Colorado Hailstorm FC and the Air Force Academy before the start of the second-ever MLS Next Pro regular season.