COMMERCE CITY — No matter how tired they were, the Colorado Rapids didn’t show it Saturday afternoon against top-ranked LAFC.
What a difference 48 hours can make.
After a tight turnaround at the weekend, the Rapids got goals from Gyasi Zardes and Diego Rubio and the fullback held it off in an impressive 2-0 victory at sun-drenched Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
It was a winding journey for Colorado to get there.
After an Open Cup game on Thursday afternoon in the Twin Cities was postponed an additional day by weather, the Rapids’ return flight was also delayed, keeping them in Minnesota until Friday morning. The team finally returned to Denver at 10:30 a.m. to go straight by bus to a usual Friday routine consisting of two video sessions, tactics and a practice session. Despite the circumstances leading up to Saturday’s game, the Rapids (4-4-3, 15 points) rose to the occasion in front of 15,022 fans at the DSGP.
“I know I’m stressing this a lot, but it’s unprecedented for me. Having to play Thursday afternoon then Saturday afternoon is unprecedented. Especially given the circumstances,” said Rapides coach Robin Fraser, who admitted taking a nap Friday afternoon after three whirlwind days.
“…To think you’re going home and you don’t, to think you’re going to finish a game and you don’t, and it just goes on and on, emotionally, that’s a real drain.”
“We have to recognize not only how we played, but also how we approach the game. We continue to approach the game like this, it can certainly be a stepping stone.
Colorado came forward early. In the 16th minute, Rapids were awarded a penalty after Sebastien Ibeagha caught Rubio with an elbow to the head as he attempted to play a Bryan Acosta free kick into the box.
After checking Rubio for a head injury, Zardes stepped in and scored his first goal as a Burgundy Boy. LAFC goaltender John McCarthy got his hands on it, but he failed to get enough ball and the Rapids took a 1-0 lead.
The Rapids absorbed pressure from LAFC (7-2-2, 22 points) but didn’t break. It again paid off in the form of a second penalty.
In the 24th minute, Jonathan Lewis received a pass in the box but it escaped him. However, Cristian Arango went hard behind Lewis’ back and referee Ted Unkel again pointed to the penalty spot. Colorado has had three penalties in 2021 and Saturday’s were the first since Cole Bassett converted a penalty on Oct. 10, 2021, in a 3-1 win at Minnesota United.
Rubio had his penalty saved but the game went to VAR and it was ruled McCarthy had left his line early, giving Rubio a chance to redeem himself. He buried the second shot to give Colorado a 2-0 lead. It was his sixth goal of the season, which tied him for second overall in the MLS Golden Boot race.
In the second half, LAFC had some good chances but failed to convert.
In his first game back at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Kellyn Acosta had a quiet afternoon with 51 touches, despite being moved away due to Ryan Hollingshead’s injury in the first half .
For man of the match Auston Trusty, he said defending a talented team like LAFC was not just a credit to the backline, but to the whole team.
“It feels good to see everyone shut down and know their role,” Trusty said. “We play a certain way with who we want to score, who doesn’t have to (give) time on the ball and it’s just good to see all the chemistry and the fight from everyone to get to their places. “
In the 72nd minute, team captain Jack Price came on as a substitute and took the armband from William Yarbrough while receiving a cheering ovation. He had missed the last four games in all competitions with a hamstring injury.
Colorado had plenty of chances to put the game to bed but couldn’t. Still, it was Yarbrough’s fifth clean sheet of 2022 and helped extend the home unbeaten streak to 22 regular-season games.
The Rapids will continue a busy streak with a midweek game at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park.