Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Colorado Rapids | Takeaways | July 1, 2018

Sjöberg was the star nobody will talk about

On June 1, Axel Sjöberg played a forgettable first half at home against Vancouver. The Rapids conceded twice, and he was subbed off after 45 minutes in route to a 2-1 loss. That was the last time the big Swede saw the field before Sunday night.

“You can never look further ahead than your next game, and that’s what you’ve gotta do to start winning games and start creating momentum…so that’s our main goal right now,” Sjöberg told the media earlier this week.

Needless to say, Axel was hoping for another chance to get back in the lineup and prove he’s a regular starter for head coach Anthony Hudson. He was given a shot in Vancouver to begin a busy three-games-in-a-week stretch and did not disappoint.

Anchoring the Rapids’ backline, Sjöberg and company limited the counter attack for Vancouver and used their size advantage to render the Whitecaps’ set pieces irrelevant. The biggest moment for #44 came in the 37th minute with the game still scoreless. Sjöberg was beaten initially by Alphonso Davies deep in the box and the Canada Day crowd at BC Place surely thought they had an easy opening goal. The six-foot-seven-inch Sjöberg lunged to make a last-ditch stop denying Davies, keeping the home side off the scoreboard.

Two seasons ago, Axel scored a last-minute goal in Vancouver to give the Rapids an improbable 2-2 draw. It kept a magical unbeaten run alive in the process. He was a star for a different reason on Sunday, helping the Rapids keep a modest three-game unbeaten run alive. He was dominant in the air and rock solid leading the back line in the shutout road win.

Howard stands tall on USA vs Belgium anniversary

Four years ago Sunday, Tim Howard went from notable soccer player with a beard to a household superstar across the United States. That day, Howard made a World Cup record 16 saves against Belgium and became an internet meme in the process.

Exactly four years later, now the captain of the Rapids, Howard led the way to a clean sheet and a valuable three points with ten big saves against Vancouver. He made big stop after big stop against the ‘Caps and was in clear control of his box all night. His biggest save came against Nicolás Mezquida in the first half, but he made another textbook stop on Kei Kamara in the second. Howard’s most spectacular save may have come in the 83rd minute when Jordon Mutch hit a shot from distance. It missed leveling the game by inches and only Tim will know if he got a finger to it or not. Either way, it was a performance worthy of Man of the Match, MLS Best XI and Player of the Week honors.

"This was obviously a huge start for us. We've set ourselves a point target for the week...getting three points today we can be a bit more greedy as the week goes on," Howard told the media after Sunday's win.

We've got a big game at home, probably our biggest game of the season with the fireworks. Everyone in Denver looks forward to this game, it's pretty special to us and hopefully we can give our fans something to cheer about."

The captain is a ‘let my play do the talking’ leader and Sunday night his play said that he and this Rapids side are locked in defensively heading into Wednesday’s big July 4th clash with Seattle.