COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On a bitterly cold and snowy day in Colorado, two second-half penalties handed Pablo Mastroeni his first victory as Colorado Rapids head coach and continued the Portland Timbers’ lackluster start to the 2014 season.
Vicente Sanchez opened the scoring in the 73rd after Donovan Ricketts’ 68th-minute red card for taking down Deshorn Brown in the penalty box, and Brown finished off a second penalty kick just two minutes later after backup goalkeeper Andrew Weber was forced to take down Sanchez in the box in the 74th.
The scoreline perhaps wasn’t fair to the visitors, who controlled large portions of the match prior to two penalties and nearly drew first blood on multiple occasions. But Ricketts’ poor judgment in the 68th saw him draw a red card and hand the Rapids a penalty, opening the floodgates and all but sealing the game’s outcome.
The Timbers head back to Portland with just a pair of points from their opening three matches, while the Rapids have now opened their season with an impressive four points from their first two games.
On a snow-slicked Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Brown nearly put the Rapids ahead less than two minutes in, but his angled blast was stopped by Donovan Ricketts.
With the home side dominating the early possession and chances, Jose Mari’s close-range blast was barely deflected into the side netting in the eighth minute, and four minutes later Nick LaBrocca’s shot narrowly sailed over Ricketts’ crossbar.
But in the 19th, the Timbers nearly got on the scoreboard themselves on their first real chance of the match. Steve Zakuani, making his first start in a Portland uniform, cut in from the left and sent a low drive that forced rookie 'keeper John Berner into a diving save.
The Timbers slowly gained a foothold in the midfield, controlling the majority of the first half before the halftime whistle blew.
On the other side of the half, Portland picked up where they left off, nearly slotting home in the 51st minute, denied only by Marvell Wynne’s desperate clearance on the goal line.
But then, an over-the-top ball from Dillon Powers in the 68th drew Ricketts off his line and the Jamaican's cleat caught his countryman Brown’s thigh, drawing the red card. After Ricketts was carted off the field with an injury, Sanchez coolly converted for his second penalty-kick goal of the young season.
Just a minute after Sanchez’s opener, another Powers feed forced Weber, who had just subbed in for Ricketts, to race off his line and clip Sanchez, earning a quick yellow for bringing down the Uruguayan midfielder. Weber saved Brown’s ensuing PK, but the Jamaican followed up with an point-blank finish of the loose ball for the 2-0 advantage in the 75th minute.
Rapids midfielder Jose Mari saw a second yellow in the 90th minute, evening the sides at 10 apiece, but Portland was unable to work their way back into the match.
The Rapids stay at home to battle defending champions Sporting Kansas City on Saturday (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE), while the Timbers stay on the road to battle FC Dallas next Saturday as well (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.