By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15
MLS is back. Finally. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been watching soccer since the MLS season ended. However, I am very happy to have my home team back on the pitch. Down to ten men in the first half while playing in what was the coldest game in MLS history, the Colorado Rapids put on an incredible show for us.
When we last left, our local heroes were two places out of being labeled the worst in 2018, but only by a three point margin. There was a good deal of shuffling in the off-season that saw some old favorites head elsewhere, but saw some potentially new favorites move in.
Fast forward to Saturday. It was cold. Weather reports were saying that anywhere from four to eight inches of snow would fall by the time the game was over. The wind was rough, and it didn’t seem to matter that I had layered. The cold cut straight through me.
The Rapids set up a 4-4-2 diamond formation with two of our off-season acquisitions, Kei Kamara, and Diego Rubio, at the top. The Rapids took the lead in the fifteenth minute after Kamara put a beautiful pass by Kellyn Acosta into the back of the net. The game moved quickly and the Rapids showed marked improvement over last year’s performances.
However, what became most evident was that while the Rapids had improved over the off-season, the refs had not. The best example of this was the red card in the first half that saw Axel Sjöberg off the pitch and the Rapids down to ten men. I am among those that think the ref got this one wrong.
There was definitely a hand ball, I have no argument there, but to decide it was an intentional handball and send him off was incorrect. Sjöberg slipped and his hands were out when he went down. Does he get a card? Yes. According to IFAB, the International Football Association Board, handballs get carded.
At most, he should’ve gotten a yellow. The ref awarded a penalty kick that Tim Howard saved, but Diego Valeri equalized off of the rebound.
Colorado was forced to make a change here in order to accommodate for the missing body on the back line and they exchanged Rubio for Danny Wilson. The Portland Timbers got the go-ahead goal off of a Diego Valeri corner kick in stoppage time during the first half. While Sebastian Blanco got credit for the goal, it almost looks like the ball took a weird bounce off of the pitch and went in.
When they came back from half-time, the field was a mess. Leaf blowers and snow shovels were brought out to clear the lines. The snow was driving into our faces and it stung. The ball took weird hops and the players had to work to adjust to the different ball movement than what they were expecting. There were a couple times in the first half where I was reminded of when the NHL added colored streaks to the puck in their telecasts because of how the snow kicked up behind the ball and gave it a bit of a tail.
The Rapids had a hard time keeping the Timbers out of their end throughout the second half. The stats show that by all intents and purposes, Portland should have won this. Their pass accuracy was higher, they had more possession, and a greater amount of shots on goal. However, Colorado fought harder. There were more than a few times where I forgot that we were down to ten men because of how hard they were working.
Benny Feilhaber scored quickly in the second half to bring the score even, but just twenty minutes later – Deklan Wynne put in an own goal to put Portland back ahead. Colorado made their last substitution in the 76th minute and brought in 5th pick overall, Andre Shinyashiki for Acosta. This turned out to be a great decision because he scored the late equalizer that gave Rapids a point and continued their streak of not losing the home opener.
His positioning was perfect on that last goal and he was ready to take the rebound from Dillon Serna’s shot. Shinyashiki showed some great promise, but also showed his rookie side. (I found myself hollering “GET ONSIDE!” more than once at him.)
In all, the game left me excited for the upcoming season. Yes, it was only one game, but the Rapids did not give up and they showed a physicality that we did not see last season. Like I mentioned earlier, the stats available show that the Rapids should have lost this game. This is when a tie feels like a win though.
The Rapids will face off against the Seattle Saunders on Saturday, March 9 at CenturyLink in Washington.
16’ – GOAL: Kei Kamara (Rapids 1 – 0 Timbers)
18’ – CARD: Diego Chara (Portland, Yellow)
27’ – CARD: Axel Sjöberg (Colorado, Red)
29’ – GOAL: Diego Valeri (Rapids 1 – 1 Timbers)
30’ – SUBSTITUTION: Danny Wilson in for Diego Rubio (1/3 for Colorado)
32’ – CARD: Julio Cascante (Portland, Yellow)
40’ – SUBSTITUTION: Jack Price in for Cole Bassett (2/3 for Colorado)
45’+1 – GOAL: Sebastian Blanco (Rapids 1 – 2 Timbers)
46’ – GOAL: Benny Feilhaber (Rapids 2 – 2 Timbers)
66’ – GOAL: Deklan Wynne, own goal (Rapids 2 – 3 Timbers)
77’ – SUBSTITUTION: Andre Shinyashiki in for Kellyn Acosta (3/3 for Colorado)
86’ – SUBSTITUTION: Andres Flores in for David Guzmán (1/3 for Portland)
87’ – SUBSTITUTION: Lucas Melano in for Jeremy Ebobisse (2/3 for Portland)
90’+4 – GOAL: Andre Shinyashiki (Rapids 3 – 3 Timbers)
Featured image: @official433
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