Colorado Rapids 2 fell short to North Texas SC on Sunday night at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park after competing in its fourth straight MLS NEXT Pro shootout. After a 1-1 draw in regulation thanks to a stoppage time equalizer from Michael Edwards, Colorado struggled to find the back of the net during the penalty kicks resulting in a single point earned on the night.
"I thought we did well. Unfortunate to give up that goal in the dying minutes, but we showed good fight, we showed good character. We were able to get one in the 90th minute, but unfortunately in this league we go to penalty kicks. We dropped two points, but we were able to get one, so we look at that as a positive,” said Michael Edwards.
Sunday night’s MLS NEXT Pro Game of the Week got off to a slow start with both sides sitting at nil-nil at the end of the first half. Colorado’s Maclovio Swett led the attacking efforts in the first 45 minutes after first team loan Max Alves went down with an injury in the ninth minute of the match. Even without the veteran presence, the Colorado front three managed to put up four shots with Swett leading the team with two shots of his own.
On the defensive end of the pitch, Gustavo Vallecilla and Edwards managed to contain a high pressing North Texas to four shots in the first 45. First team loan Clint Irwin was steadfast in goal, maintaining a clean sheet for the home side until the 88th minute of the match.
With both sides desperate to break open the scoreline, the second half kicked off with a huge save from Irwin who ended the night with three saves in total. The final 45 minutes continued with dangerous chances from both sides with forward Yosuke Hanya leading Colorado in its second half attacking efforts.
“Eighty-seven minutes, give or take a few seconds, but our longest game with a clean sheet. As we are desperate to get that, we fall just short. As I had told the players, I am grateful for the last three minutes plus stoppage time. I am grateful for the players to concede that goal, take a punch in the gut and answer the call, come back out and not quit, push forward and try until the death. It is that show of character that will make me forever proud of the group,” said Erik Bushey, Rapids 2 head coach.
The scoreline would finally break open in the dying minutes of the match when North Texas’ Andre Costa put a screamer past Irwin for the opening goal of the night in the 88th minute. However, Colorado did not go down without a fight as they continued to search for the back of the net during stoppage time.
In the 92nd minute, the team earned its final corner kick of the match and a perfect delivery from midfielder Robinson Aguirre gave Edwards his opportunity to find the equalizer off of a header in the box. With that goal, Edwards earned his first MLS NEXT Pro goal while Aguirre recorded his first assist of the season.
"We have been working on set pieces all year. We have come a long way on set pieces,” said Edwards. “We work with coach Sharpe a day before the match usually and we hammer our runs, and we make sure that everyone is disciplined in what they have to do. I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time. The ball came to my head, and I was able to put it in the back of the net."
Ultimately, Colorado was forced to face its fourth straight MLS NEXT Pro shootout after finding the equalizer. However, the team struggled to find the back of the net during the penalty kicks and ended the shootout in a 0-3 loss, taking home one point on the night. With a draw in regulation and a loss in the shootout, Colorado’s late playoff push comes to an end as the season draws to a close.
"We are not done yet. That would be the first part of that. It is hard to define the level of pride I have in the guys. Coming off the field tonight, they are gutted. I know they will answer the call just like they did in the game. I think they will do that this week,” said Bushey.
Rapids 2 will travel to Vancouver this week to take on Whitecaps FC 2 at Swangard Stadium on August 25. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. MT and the match will be broadcast on MLSNEXTPro.com.