Saturday’s 2-0 win over LA Galaxy was the Colorado Rapids’ sixth success of the season, and the fourth in which Diego Rubio has scored the game-winning goal. In short, the 29-year-old Chilean is having quite the year.
Only one player, Maximiliano Urruti of Austin FC, has more game-winners this season (5), and his have come from playing two more matches than Rubio.
Rubio now has 11 game-winning goals for the Rapids, one behind the club’s leader in that category, Paul Bravo. Bravo’s 12 came from 135 appearances. Rubio has managed 11 from 86.
Chatter around MLS during the offseason included murmurings of movement involving the Rapids and their quest for a number nine. A less-assured striker may have shied away from the challenge, and the added pressure.
Only Michael Barrios (5) has more assists. No other Rapids player has more goals (9). None has more shots (54), or shots on goal (24), and nobody else has suffered as many fouls (45) as the number 11.
He is active in front of goal, either from open play, the penalty spot, or from set pieces. He also does a lot of the dirty work, highlighted by the number of times he’s been felled unfairly by the opposition.
Rubio puts in the hard yards. He clearly loves to score, as all strikers do, but this season he has shown himself to be the complete team player. Whether popping the ball in the onion bag with a free kick from 25 yards, clearing the danger in the defensive third, breaking up play in midfield, or sending a searching ball out to the flanks for a Rapids break, the 2022 version of Diego Rubio brings it all.
The former Sporting Kansas City striker has only once managed more goals in a season, when scoring 11 for the Rapids in 2019. Even then he was at pains to stress how, though scoring goals is what he enjoys, it really is about the collective.
He made his MLS debut as an 80th minute substitute for Brad Davis in a 2-1 loss for SKC at Real Salt Lake on April 2, 2016. His first start in MLS came in game two, a 2-1 home loss to the Rapids 11 days later. His first of 43 MLS goals came at Vancouver two weeks later.
After three seasons at Sporting KC, during which he managed 51 appearances, 15 goals, and eight assists, the Santiago-born Rubio joined the Rapids for the start of the 2019 campaign.
Having managed a career-high 11 goals that season, Rubio saw it as little more than a personal achievement in a team sport. After all, as he would later explain, the team failed to make the playoffs that year. In other words, he is not happy simply racking up individual milestones. He wants his actions - whether defending, biting in midfield, creating, or scoring - to be meaningful for the team.
With his goal against the Galaxy, a clinical finish inside the far post, Rubio moves to 28 in the colors of the Rapids, enough for seventh on the club’s all-time list. He is now one ahead of current assistant coach, Wolde Harris, and one behind Dominique Badji.
Father of four Rubio is a fierce competitor. He hates losing. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is very much a player you want in your locker room. Thankfully, he’s in ours.