COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Colorado Rapids 2 will face off against Austin FC II at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on Sunday, October 15, for the Western Conference Final (7:30 p.m. MT; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV).
After defeating Earthquakes II in the Western Conference Semifinal, Rapids 2 will now prepare to take on Austin FC II for a Western Conference title on Sunday night. As the No. 1 seed in the conference, Colorado earned the opportunity to host teams throughout the entirety of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs. A win on Sunday night would mark the team’s first-ever conference title and would solidify Colorado’s spot in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Cup, which would be hosted at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. Should Colorado advance through to the MLS NEXT Pro Cup, the team will face either the Eastern Conference’s New England Revolution II or reigning champions Columbus Crew 2. The Eastern Conference Final is set to take place on Saturday, October 14, at 3:00 p.m. MT.
Colorado enters this weekend’s match on the heels of a 1-0 win over Earthquakes II in the Western Conference Semifinal. The match got off to a hot start with a red card being given to Earthquakes II’s Oscar Verhoeven in the second minute of the match. With Earthquakes II playing a man down, the Rapids took advantage of their fire power up front, ending the half with three shots on target.
San Jose did well to defend their box throughout the match, but the Rapids offense proved to be too much to handle with an additional two shots on goal in the second half. The game finally took a turn in the 84th minute when defender Sebastian Anderson intercepted a ball in the midfield to find Yosuke Hanya on a run up the right flank. Hanya proceeded to carry the ball up the pitch before releasing a through ball to Darren Yapi who calmly placed a left-footed attempt in the back of the net for the team’s game-winning goal.
The match ultimately ended with the Rapids advancing to the Western Conference Final on a one-goal effort while the Colorado defense managed to stifle the Earthquakes’ offense completely, not allowing a single shot on goal in the 90 minutes of play. Goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez was credited with the clean sheet during his first-ever playoff appearance for the club.
Heading into Sunday’s match, Rapids 2 will test their skills against Austin FC II for the fourth time this season. The first time these two sides faced off at the University of Denver Soccer Stadium, Rapids 2 grabbed their first home win in the month of May off a 1-0 victory. Midfielder Marlon Vargas was the lone goal scorer of the night while goalkeeper Adam Beaudry managed to record his second clean sheet of the season.
The second meeting between the Western Conference rivals saw Colorado come back from a three-goal deficit at the half to force a 3-3 draw with Austin at the end of regulation. It was Vargas again who kicked off the scoring for the night after converting on a penalty kick from the spot. Vargas’ goal was followed by a 66th minute goal from Oliver Larraz and an Austin FC II own goal that tied the two teams at 3-3 before the final whistle. Rapids 2 ultimately took home the extra point on the night in a 6-5 shootout win that saw Adam Beaudry make a crucial save to give Colorado the win.
The third and final match asked Rapids 2 to travel to Parmer Field to take on Austin for the team’s final road match of the season. Forward Rémi Cabral was the star of the show, bagging a brace to give Colorado the 2-1 win over the home side. Rapids 2 remains undefeated against the Austin side as they head into their most important contest yet.
Austin FC II will travel to Denver with a bit of momentum after pulling two upsets over Sporting KC II and Tacoma Defiance in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Conference Quarterfinals match saw Austin defeat Kansas City in a 2-0 victory while the Conference Semifinals were marked by a 1-0 win over Tacoma Defiance. The strong Austin defense has yet to concede a goal during the playoffs, continuing their reign as the best defense in the league. However, Austin’s defense will need to combat the best offense in the league in Rapids 2 on Sunday night in order to advance to the MLS NEXT Pro Cup.
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