The Halftime Message Worked
It would be an understatement to say it was a tale of two halves Saturday night. Minnesota looked like the better, hungrier side in the first half at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park and had a 2-0 lead to show for it.
“I thought we started passively, and we need to win some individual battles and 50-50s and things like that,” head coach Robin Fraser told Altitude Sports at halftime. “When we keep the ball we can be dangerous. If you saw the last five or seven minutes we attacked much more purposefully, and, as a result, we’re getting a number of opportunities.”
What was the magic sauce during the intermission? A heated bit of ‘do better’? Measured tactical instruction? Some combination of the two? Whatever the message was from Fraser to his side at the intermission, it worked.
"The mood at halftime was understandably a little bit somber but by the same token, by the time I had gotten in there they had already gotten on each other about how much better it needed to be and I think by the end of halftime we came out with a lot of belief," Fraser said.
Play with purpose the Rapids did, outshooting Minnesota nine to three after halftime to mount an epic comeback in front of their home supporters.
Two Weeks, Two Wondergoals
For the second week in a row, the Rapids were sparked by a world-class strike from distance. Saturday against Minnesota, it was Kellyn Acosta’s right-footed volley from the top of the half-circle, roughly 20 yards from the target. In the 57th minute, the ball ping-ponged around the penalty area after a Michael Barrios cross and eventually found its way through traffic and into the back of the net. As soon as the roar of the crowd acknowledged the beautifully hit goal, the comeback was fully underway.
Acosta’s expected goals for the night were 0.03 for the night. This means, of all of his actions, including the strike, he had an expected three percent chance of finding the back of the net. But that isn't how it appeared on the scoresheet. He had one look on the night, and his technique was perfect.
More importantly, the number 23’s emotional response to his teammates provided a catalyst for an epic comeback and an epic night at DSGP. It’s yet another strike that will live among the Rapids’ all-time greats.
“You can turn the game in your favor, but you can only do it for so long without scoring a goal," Fraser said of the timing of the comeback goals. "Pretty soon that momentum will start to slip away from you. So the goals were timely and very important, and the manner of which they came also brought energy to the building.”
A Signature Moment for Cole Bassett
Designated Player Younes Namli was subbed off in the 27th minute after taking a heavy challenge. Cole Bassett entered the scene and played the remaining 60 minutes as if he had something to prove. The Rapids’ number 26 was everywhere, winning loose balls, playing dangerous crosses into the box, combining with teammates and, ultimately, leveling the game in the 71st minute.
“It was really about Cole [Bassett] coming in and giving us some energy and from the very first play he had -- I think it’s the first play, he sprinted 50 yards to go close down the goalkeeper and the goalkeeper kicked it out of bounds. It was just a statement by him that he was there to work and that he was going to everything that he could to disrupt and I thought he did a really good job of it throughout the night,” Fraser said after the game.
The goal came off of a counter-attack, but Bassett provided his trademark late full-sprint into the box, and, when Minnesota ‘keeper Dayne St. Clair spilled the cross by Sam Vines, it was Bassett on the spot to slot home the all-important equalizer.
“When you’re down two-nil and you come back three-two in front of your home fans, there’s not much that really beats it. Especially on a night like this, it’s perfect to play soccer," Bassett said.
It was a signature moment for a player who’s provided nothing but highlights since his debut nearly three years ago.
“I thought we didn’t have much energy [before came in], and I had a feeling like I could provide a spark of energy to drive the team forward and create chances," Bassett said. "That was my mindset coming in and also to give pressure on the backline for them.”
The photo of Cole at the final said it all. A three-goal comeback win over the team that ended your 2020 season? In the rain? It doesn’t get a whole lot more satisfying than that.