COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Colorado Rapids 2 (17-4-5, 60 pts) will face off against Austin FC II (7-10-8, 30 pts) at Parmer Field on Friday, September 15, for the final road match of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro regular season (7:00 p.m. MT; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV).
The Rapids are coming off a 2-0 victory over rivals Real Monarchs that secured the team the number one seed in the Western Conference. The win against Salt Lake City solidified a first-round bye for Rapids 2 in the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs, making the conference semifinals the first match that the Rapids will face in this year’s postseason.
Colorado entered the Rocky Mountain Cup rivalry in good form with early attacking chances from first team players Oliver Larraz, Darren Yapi and Jonathan Lewis. The team remained composed throughout the half, putting up four shots on target and testing Salt Lake’s defense in the box. Meanwhile, the Rapids’ defense stifled the Salt Lake attack, not allowing a single shot on goal in the first half.
As minute 30 approached, the Rapids were awarded a free kick within range. Larraz stepped up to the ball and delivered a service to the back post that was headed back into the center of the box by Rémi Cabral. Real Monarchs made an attempt to clear the ball from danger, however Larraz was there to pick it up at the top of the box for a give and go to Robinson Aguirre. The first team midfielder received the ball and beat his defender to secure Rapids 2’s first goal of the night in the 29th minute, bringing his season total to nine goals.
The second half kicked off with a 1-0 scoreline and a persistence to find the back of the net yet again. The first opportunity of the half came at the feet of Yapi who attempted to curl a shot to the far post that was eventually parried out of play by Monarchs’ keeper Blake Kelly. The shot was immediately followed by another attempt from Yapi off the corner kick, which was narrowly saved by Kelly.
As the minutes ticked on, it was Cabral who gave the team its second of the night in the 85th minute. Midfielder Marlon Vargas collected a ball in the midfield off the counter attack and fed a pass through to Yosuke Hanya who drove it up the right flank. With two defenders hot on his heels, Hanya found Cabral unmarked in the box and chipped a defender to find the Frenchman on the back post. Cabral hit it to the roof of the net with a one touch finish to seal the deal for Colorado and give the team three points on the night while upping his season total to 14 goals to lead the team in goals scored this season.
The team now faces its final road match of the 2023 regular season against Austin FC II who currently sits in third place in the Western Conference. The two sides have already met twice this season with the first meeting ending in a 1-0 victory for the Rapids and the second meeting ending in a 3-3 draw that saw Colorado grab the extra point in a shootout win. Midfielder Vargas scored a goal in each of the matches while Larraz added a goal of his own during the second match, which was sent to a 3-3 draw on an own goal from Austin.
Austin FC II has had a strong season at home thus far, producing a 9-2-2 record at Parmer Field. The team’s most recent match against MNUFC2 saw Austin compete in its ninth shootout of the season after drawing 1-1 with Minnesota on the road. Having already qualified for this year’s playoffs, Austin is looking to finish its season strong with only two matches left in the regular season. As it stands, Austin leads the league in clean sheets with goalkeeper Damian Las putting up 12 clean sheets this season and the Austin defense only allowing 18 goals in 26 matches. On the opposing end of the pitch, Rapids 2 leads the league in goals scored with 64 goals in 26 matches, making this weekend’s matchup a battle of the boxes.