COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In a rare encounter, the Colorado Rapids hosted Argentine giant Boca Juniors on Tuesday night in an international friendly. With the match ending tied up at 2-2 in regulation, Colorado won the inaugural Western Union Cup in a penalty shootout (5-4).
For Colorado, it was an opportunity for Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson to give valuable playing time to players who haven’t featured often during the 2018 MLS campaign. On average, Hudson’s starting XI for this match featured players with an average of just 420 minutes logged this season.
“Overall, I was very, very pleased, I was pleased with their attitude towards the game, they weren’t afraid, they were brave trying to play football, I enjoyed it,” Hudson told reporters postgame.
The match also gave Hudson the opportunity to start new signing Kellyn Acosta, acquired from FC Dallas in a trade that was announced yesterday. Wearing the No. 10 for Colorado, Acosta showed flashes of his skill, nearly scoring on a first-half free kick.
“It was definitely cool, just getting out there with the team,” said Acosta. “My first minutes and just getting integrated with the squad, getting a feel of everything and obviously the altitude played a role in it, so getting used to that, it was definitely exciting getting my first touch with the team and holding a trophy at the end is even sweeter, so I was happy to be a part of it.”
It also marked the first-team debut for recently-signed Rapids Homegrown Sam Vines.
“I think it went well, thanks to the coach for giving me playing time and I appreciate the commitment that the whole team had,” Vines said. “The whole 90 it went well because of my teammates, they really helped me, they talked to me, so credit to the team for helping me get through my first, my debut, first 90 minutes with the Rapids.”
On the opposing touchline, Boca Juniors manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto used the match as an opportunity to prepare for their 2018-19 campaign, which begins next month.
“We had the momentum in the first half and were really pressing, but then they were able to tie it up with two shots,” Schelotto explained. “After that, it seemed like a lot of negative things started to accumulate. We had difficulty playing at altitude and recovering, but overall this was a good way to see where we are as a team right now.”
The visitors showed dominance early, scoring a pair of goals in the first quarter of an hour from Wilmar Barrios and Sebastian Villa. But Colorado pulled one back as Marlon Hairston connected with Yannick Boli on a long ball from the wing. Boli’s finish drew the Rapids within 2-1 in the 30th minute.
Colorado equalized in the second half as substitute Enzo Martinez ripped a shot from outside the 18, which pinged off the crossbar and in to even the game at 2-2. It marked Martinez’s first goal for Colorado across all competitions.
For Martinez, a Uruguayan who grew up in the academy system of Club Nacional de Football, it was a special moment, given the rivalries between both club and country.
“Honestly, I couldn’t describe it,” Martinez said of the opportunity. “I was happy to just share the field with the players like they have. I’ve watched [Boca Juniors] since I was a little kid, four or five years old. Boca is a massive club and to not only be able to play but to score my first goal against them is a dream come true.”
With the game tied, both sides pushed for the winning goal in extra time, but penalties would follow.
During the ensuing penalty shootout, Colorado converted all of its penalties, including the game winner by goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Boca Juniors’ lone miss came from Emanuel Reynoso.
The Rapids will resume regular-season action this weekend, facing D.C. United at Audi Field on Saturday night at 6 p.m. MT.