On a brisk Colorado night, the burning desire to win was there for both teams.
But it was the Rapids who used the motivating flames of a possible postseason berth to carve out a 3-1 win against the Sounders FC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“What I saw was a spirited Colorado team that knew they needed to collect points,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media. “They were coming off two day’s rest. … I wish I could figure out a way how to give my players the right tools to be successful in those games. Sometimes we are a high-motor team; we like to go-go-go, and I don’t think we showed enough patience.”
The match marked the first time since September that the Rapids played in their home stadium due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the club in October. Major League Soccer canceled five Colorado matches. One was a contest against the Sounders scheduled for CenturyLink Field on Oct. 14.
While Sunday’s match was always scheduled, it had different meaning. The Sounders entered already qualified for the postseason and clinging to a chance to win the Supporters’ Shield and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Because of numerous clubs suffering virus outbreaks that canceled games, MLS announced berths would be given based on points per game. The decision made Sunday’s match significant for the Rapids, who needed to beat the Sounders to have a chance at clinching a playoff berth.
Colorado forward Andre Shinyashiki ignited the push with a header in the 11th minute to open up the scoring.
Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan raced down the right flank in the 22nd minute to create the equalizer. He sent a cross for teammate Jordan Morris, which the forward awkwardly knocked in for his ninth goal this season. Roldan has four assists.
Rapids defender Keegan Rosenberry reacted quickly to score on a volley in the 42nd minute for a 2-1 lead at halftime.
While both teams increased their intensity in the second half, the Sounders were left with near-chances, and the Rapids found another score. This time off a free kick where midfielder Cole Bassett split Sounders defenders Kelvin Leerdam and Yeimar Gomez Andrade for a header in the 75th minute.
“I thought we were going to be able to control the game a little bit more in the second half,” Schmetzer said. “I’ll give credit to (Rapids coach) Robin Fraser. He had his team prepared on short rest. His players were up for the game.”
The Sounders (10-5-5) are out of contention for the top overall seed in MLS. They’re in the running for the top seed in the West along with the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City, but currently the Sounders are third in the standings.
Colorado (6-6-4) moved up to seventh place in the West, but it did not clinch because of Portland’s win Sunday.
Schemtzer didn’t permit his players to talk to media after the loss. He added that the players were in a positive mood and talking among each other after Schmetzer’s postgame speech.
“They’re always willing to talk to the press and media afterwards,” Schmetzer said. “There’s no issues there. I just need those guys to take a break and think about other things.”
Shane O’Neill, who began his MLS career with Colorado in 2012, replaced Xavier Arreaga in the Sounders’ starting lineup Sunday. He was on defense for Shinyashiki’s goal and barely edged by the Rapids striker in the jump for the ball.
Key changes were made to the bench but the club was without two players due to a family emergency for Miguel Ibarra and non-COVID-related illness for Roman Torres.
Sounders forward Will Bruin and Brad Smith were selected after missing past matches due to minor injuries. Smith substituted into the match for Gustav Svensson in the 64th minute, and Bruin subbed on in the 78th minute for Nouhou.
The Sounders play the Galaxy on the road Wednesday.
“The first four or five possessions we had in the second half, we gave the ball away, and that gave (Colorado) a ton of confidence,” Schmetzer said. “Kept them in the game and we were chasing it in the second half.”