The Colorado Rapids avenged their 2021 MLS Cup Playoff defeat on Saturday night as they beat the Portland Timbers 2-0 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. Striker Diego Rubio put the Rapids up early in the first half with a curling free kick before being handed a red card in the 63rd minute, and Mark-Anthony Kaye shut the night down with a stoppage-time left-footed shot to secure all three points.
Despite going down to ten men with over 30 minutes left in the game, the Rapids pulled out a Western Conference victory to extend Colorado's unbeaten regular season home streak to 21, continuing to set all-time club records.
“I think it's a real testament to the way we played tonight, it was a great finish by Mark, great ball by Mikey. But I think overall it's more of a testament to how the team was because of the work that we put in, especially being down a man, nobody quit and everyone worked,” said head coach Robin Fraser postgame. “It's tough to keep good teams out of your goal when you're a man down….the whole thing was fantastic. But for me, it's all wrapped up in our commitment.”
The Burgundy Boys are now six games unbeaten against Portland in the regular season, going 3-0-3 since 2019. The 2021 MLS Cup Playoff game on Thanksgiving, their only loss to the Timbers in that timespan, was on the team’s mind when taking to the pitch on Saturday night.
“I don’t think any of us forgot what happened last year in the playoffs,” said defender Auston Trusty postgame. “I thought we deserved the win. And especially with the chemistry we had last year and the roll we were on, that loss hurt a lot of us…losing to them last year during the playoffs was a huge motivation for us to come out and kick their butts.”
Colorado almost had the lead in the 21st minute when Bryan Acosta’s corner kick found the head of an unmarked Lalas Abubakar running through the middle of the box, but the goal was overturned after a look at VAR found Jonathan Lewis offside.
Rubio put the Rapids on the board first in the 30th minute when Larrys Mabiala took Lewis down just yards outside the box and gave Colorado a free kick. The Chilean striker couldn’t have been more accurate in his shot, as he drove a bending shot to the near corner and left a defeated Aljaz Ivacic standing far-side between the posts.
Saturday’s first goal was Rubio’s fifth of the season, tying his total from 2021, in just nine games.
"What you see in Diego is an excellent player, he's an excellent soccer player, he's an excellent attacking player, a very good attacking mind," said Fraser. "Diego is also very unselfish. He's just as happy to hit a great final pass for someone else's score and I think what he's done this year is he's just thinking a little bit more about scoring goals and thinking a little bit more selfishly, which for our attackers we need. The hallmark of this team is unselfishness. And you still see the kind of unselfish work from Diego that I've seen from him for three years now, but I think he's just a little more selfish in front of the goal and a little bit more determined and focused. He's just been really dangerous this year."
It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that the Rapids felt the heat in DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. Having previously been shown a yellow in the first half’s stoppage time, Rubio committed another foul in the second to collect his first red card of the season, moving the Rapids down to ten men for the remainder of the game.
Despite losing Rubio with 27 minutes to go, plus another seven of stoppage time, Colorado kept their foot on the gas and continued to generate chances on goal. Eight Rapids players recorded shots on goal on Saturday, with Lewis recording four himself.
A tired Portland side couldn’t make their efforts worthwhile, but a few opportunities broke through for the Timbers late into the game. Marvin Loria put a far-post drifter on frame in the 83rd minute but Yarbrough collected it with ease to keep the shutout at altitude. The Rapids’ goalkeeper recorded three saves in the victory.
Kaye closed out the night in front of the home crowd in the 95th minute when he collected a square ball from Barrios in front of the box, took a touch to his left foot, and bent the ball to the far post net for the second goal of the night. Kaye now has three goals on the 2022 season.
Up next, the Rapids travel to San Jose to take on the Western Conference 13th-ranked Earthquakes at PayPal Park. Kickoff is set for 8:00 p.m MT.