This Colorado Rapids Special Olympics Unified team match report is brought to you by DICK’s Sporting Goods.
In the first match of the 2019 season, the Rapids Special Olympics Unified team defeated the Minnesota Special Olympics Unified team in an electrifying penalty kick shootout on Saturday, June 8 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park.
Saturday’s action opened with a short pregame warmup, followed by a full procession and the reading of the Special Olympics athlete oath by Michael Cryer. The teams then took the field.
Colorado Rapids midfielder Scotty Stephens put the Rapids in front in the 9th minute with a strike from distance. The home team would keep the 1-0 lead going into halftime.
At halftime, the crowd was treated to a recap of the recent 'Shop with a Jock' outing at DICK’s Sporting Goods and a special edition of Rapids Live with interviews from both Scotty Stephens of the Rapids and Minnesota United athlete Tyler Sarff.
Once the second half started, it was clear Minnesota had made some adjustments as Tony Bengston leveled the game for the Loons shortly after halftime. The rest of the second half was marked by excellent defensive work from Colorado’s Jonathan Stephens and Grant Ho and the match ended in a 1-1 draw, which sent the teams into penalty kicks.
Each team selected five athletes to take a one penalty kick each. It was Rapids goalkeeper Luis Miranda who made a diving final save to give the Rapids the win over Minnesota Special Olympics Unified team. It was exhilarating end to an evenly matched game between the teams who will meet again in Minnesota in August.
Rapids Executive Vice President and General Manager Padraig Smith, Rapids Senior Vice President of Business Operations Wayne Brant and Rocky Mountain Division Manager at Swire Coca-Cola Phillip Merrill were all on hand to greet each athlete with a handshake and a medal following the match. Several Rapids first team players were also on hand coaching and cheering on the athletes.
The Rapids Special Olympics Unified team’s next and final match of the season is set for Wednesday, August 14 against Minnesota Special Olympics Unified team at Allianz Field.
This exchange program not only provides Special Olympics athletes with top-level training and competitive experiences, but also offers MLS fans an opportunity to witness the talents and abilities of Special Olympics Colorado soccer players first-hand.
Tryouts were held on April 6 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, where a 20-person roster was selected. Only 16 of the 20 athletes will travel to away matches, but the entire roster will be present for home matches.
Through the generosity and financial support of our corporate partners adidas, Cardel Homes, Coca-Cola, DICK'S Sporting Goods and Transamerica the program has continued to grow each year.