The Big Picture
Colorado Rapids 2's season came to an end after falling short to Austin FC II in tonight's Western Conference Final. After 90 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute extra time halves, both teams headed into a penalty shootout to determine the winner of the conference title. Austin FC II took the win in the fourth round of penalties in a 1-4 victory over Rapids 2.
Over the course of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season, Rapids 2 earned a No.1 seed in the Western Conference and the league overall and qualified for the playoffs for the first time in club history. Head coach Erik Bushey ended the season as the MLS NEXT Pro Coach of the Year while Yosuke Hanya, Rémi Cabral and Oliver Larraz were named to the league's Best XI. On top of his Best XI recognition, Cabral finished the regular season with 19 goals to earn a share of this year's Golden Boot award.
- After 90 minutes of regulation and two extra time halves, Rapids 2 fell short to Austin FC II in a 1-4 penalty shootout tonight at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park.
- Goalkeeper Abraham Rodriguez recorded his second clean sheet of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Playoffs in tonight's match versus Austin FC II.
Postgame Media Availability:
Select postgame quotes transcribed below.
COLORADO RAPIDS 2 HEAD COACH ERIK BUSHEY
On the match:
“Well, a difficult result. That goes without saying. Very proud of our players, proud of the club, proud of our fans, I hope that comes out in one of these questions. Full respect to Austin, they are a fantastic team. I know they had a rough patch of a couple games late in the year, dropped their seed. They’ve gone into Kansas City, they’ve gone to Tacoma and now they’ve come here, they deserve all the credit in the world in my opinion. As for our guys though, 30 games, nearly 170 training sessions, different records, difference accolades, it’s going to be hard for those guys to think about that at this moment but there will be time for reflection. I know I’ve already gone off from what the game is. The game was hard, two good teams, not many great chances. They’re obviously a great defensive team, tonight for the most part, we defended great. We were dangerous on the break. I think there were times that we could’ve pulled off that break a bit or just held the ball a bit longer to make them defend a little bit more. But our intent was excellent, our effort was excellent. We scored a lot of goals this year, we didn’t score tonight and that’s the name of the game. So, in the end you leave it to, not just chance, but you leave it to penalties, those are difficult, and we’ve been really good on pens this year as well. We don’t get the result, we’re disappointed, angry, pissed. I wish Austin all the best in the final.”
On his message to the team:
“Certainly, I don't spend any time thinking about what I'm going to say if we lose. I think we'll have time in a couple of days to reconvene before the guys go their separate ways. I apologize just for football, we lost tonight, and I was sorry for the players for not getting the result, sorry I couldn't find the answer to unlock the game. Otherwise, I try to reiterate over and over again my pride for the players, which is hard to put into words. Nobody could have expected what we've done over these last 30 games, nobody. And I'm not saying I did either. The players have come together and put together a wonderful product. I feel like they made a lot of people proud and for that I'm pleased. I'm sure I said a few things outside of that. But if there is one message it was how proud I am of the players.”
On the support from the fans:
"I probably can't be genuine enough about this, if that makes sense, but thank you for coming out tonight. The guys are worthy of it. They are deserved of it. That's probably one of the bigger regrets, I mean there are many, but for not having one more game. I bet it (the fan base) would have grown one more time for the final. It was great, a lot of support, a lot of energy, and a good soccer game. I think I can leave it at that. The fans were great, and the players need that. I cannot emphasize that enough that if the local fan wants to see the young players truly make it in our first team, this is a part of player development, the support for hard work done. I don't care if tonight was the first game they were at or the 18th game, however many home games that we have had. If it was the first time, thank you for being here and if you have been here consistently, thank you so much for this. The players need that, and I want to be a proponent, an ambassador for that. The league and the players will suffer without that support, this is just my opinion. It makes it hurt more because we know we had a feeling of people being here and that we have let others down, not only ourselves, and that too is vital. The depths must be low because the highs will be high. This is why we are in the game, this is why I am in the game, to experience the hurt and the joy, not enjoyment, the joy. The fans bring that. We saw that through COVID, the game wasn't the same. We are talking about such a different level, but every person matters. Brilliant, I am grateful for the club who has put the extra effort forward to try to gain more support and for everybody who was willing to be here to dedicate their Sunday evening. I am grateful."
COLORADO RAPIDS 2 GOALKEEPER ABRAHAM RODRIGUEZ
On the match:
"I think the team fought hard throughout the whole game. It’s unlucky at the end, not getting the win, but that’s football.”
\On the fans' support during tonight's match: \
"It was really big having C38 behind us. We appreciate all the fans, everybody who came out, we appreciate them staying until the end of the game. It definitely mattered, and I wish we could’ve gotten the win for them.”
On playing through two extra time halves and a penalty kick shootout:
"Super proud, so proud of the whole team. Defensively we stayed solid. Proud of the guys, proud of everybody who stepped up and I think they did a really good job, not only in this game but they showed it throughout the whole season. I think I can encourage them, push them, keep pushing them, keep motivating them when they feel tired. Obviously, it's not just us, it's the other team as well. But try to push them as much as I can for sure."
On his message to his fellow teammates:
"Just to keep their heads up, keep their heads up. They had an amazing season. Obviously, I had a lot of first team duties and back and forth injury, so I wasn't with the group as much, but all those players had a great season, all the accomplishments, all the achievements, they had a great season. Do not let this stop you, do not let this loss stop them from growing, and I guarantee that when they go back out on the pitch it's going to be better."