In the first match of the 2013 season, the Rapids' Special Olympics Unified team tied FC Dallas' Special Olympics team 2-2 on Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
After sitting together in a suite to watch the Rapids 2-1 win over FC Dallas in MLS play, both special olympics teams took the field with one mission in mind: play hard and try to win their own game.
It was Dallas that scored the opening goal on a quick shot by Patrick Rooney that caught Rapids goalkeeper Morgan Butler - who had an outstanding game - going the opposite way.
However the lead would not last long as Colorado tied the match minutes later. Midfielder Ryan Yim found Ibsen Ojeda on the left side and Ojeda one-timed a shot past diving Dallas keeper Steven Mcilhaney to even the match at 1-1.
Ojeda appeared to give the Rapids a 2-1 just before the halftime break but his goal was called back for being offside.
Both goalkeepers than made fantastic stops but Dallas' Damien Black was able to break through midway through the second half to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
The Rapids defense then came up time and again. First it was Rapids captain Sam Villela that calmly denied Black a goal-scoring opportunity. And then Benjamin Hollis came up a highlight-reel sliding tackle to prevent a Dallas attack. Lastly, after Butler's fantastic save off another Black shot, Rapids defender Dylan Spencer than cleared a ball out of danger.
The defense's stance set the stage for a dramatic ending. Colorado's Azur Ewari found forward Mackenzie Beauvious-Nikl in a good spot, allowing Beauvais-Nikl the chance to send her team and the home fans happy by scoring the game-tying goal in stoppage time just seconds before the final whistle.
"It was amazing. I was so ready to do this," Beauvais-Nikl told The Denver Post afterwards. "I don't even know what happened. I just wanted to get a goal, and I did, at the last minute. I'm so happy."
In the spirit of sportsmanship, both teams received medals after the match.
The Rapids Special Olympics Unified team will head to Portland next weekend to take on the Portland Special Olympics Team at halftime of the Rapids-Timbers Reserve League match on Saturday, Sept. 21 at Jeld-Wen Field.
DAL - Patrick Rooney
COL - Ibsen Ojeda
DAL - Damien Black
COL - Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl
Colorado Rapids Special Olympics team: #19 - Morgan Butler, #11 - Dylan Spencer, #1 - Benjamin Hollis, #15 - Azur Ewari, #23 - Ryan Yim, #45 - Sam Villela (captain), #00 - Mackenzie Beauvais-Nikl
Coaches: Phil Knight, Aspen DeField, and Llima Kane
FC Dallas Special Olympics team: #20 - Steven Mcilhaney, #3 - Mary Adams, #7 - Jacob Hill, #14 - Bruce Mendiola, #23 - Anthony Campise, #24 - Damien Black, #33 - Reece Halfmann, #41 - Patrick Rooney, #44 - Matthew Henley
Coaches: Tom Black, Russ Higgins, Rachel Jordan, James Rooney, James Halfmann, Patrick Rooney