COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – For the first time in 11 tries, including U.S. Open Cup competition, the Colorado Rapids have won a match.
A stoppage time header from Tommy Smith at the death secured all three points for the host Saturday night, as Colorado defeated Minnesota United 3-2 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“It’s been a tough period for everyone,” Rapids head coach Anthony Hudson said of snapping a 10-game winless streak across all competitions. “Most of all it’s been tough for the fans. It would’ve been quite easy, and we all would’ve understood if they would’ve turned and not backed us. The Fans kept backing the team to the final whistle and we’re quite fortunate to have fans like we have because they’ve been very patient with us.”
In the first half, Minnesota had the lion’s share of the early chances in the contest including an effort from Miguel Ibarra that was blocked by Tim Howard in the 9th minute. Ibarra would eventually beat Howard, as a low shot by teammate Darwin Quintero went between the Rapids keeper’s legs, with Ibarra following up to give the Loons a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
“I thought the game plan we had worked very, very well,” Minnesota United head coach Adrian Heath said. “We had the ball and kept possession. At times, we were a bit elaborate and I think we could’ve been a bit more positive in the final third. In the first half, we had several [1-v-1 opportunities] on the counter attack.”
Colorado had a response, however, as Rapids striker Dominique Badji seemingly found an equalizer in the 30th minute, but a foul by Badji nullified what looked like a game tying goal.
At the end of 45 minutes, Colorado and Minnesota were level in shots (7), but the visitors had five shots on target to none for Colorado, including the goal.
“We didn’t start very well, so we had to adjust that at halftime,” Hudson said of the effort. “The lads responded really well.”
Colorado would find an equalizer early in the second half, as defender Edgar Castillo’s right footed shot from the top of the box went top shelf past Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to knot the game at 1-1 in the 50th minute.
“In our situation, it would’ve been easy just to accept our fate because that’s the way it’s been,” Hudson said. “But we kept going.”
Six minutes later, the Rapids nearly took the lead, but Jack McBean’s shot inside the six pinged off the post.
Instead, the Loons would put their noses in front again as Minnesota midfielder Christian Ramirez found the back of the net, receiving the pass from Ibarra out wide. Ramirez’s goal gave the Loons a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute.
Colorado responded again as substitute Joe Mason found the ball on a Rapids’ counter attack. Mason’s chipped effort found its way past Shuttleworth to knot the game up again at 2-2 in the 74th minute.
Moments after the goal, Ibarra was ejected from the match with red card for violent conduct. Behind the play, Ibarra was seen striking Rapids defender Danny Wilson, which referee Hilario Grajeda confirmed with the VAR.
“When you go a man down and they score a goal, it takes away your synergy,” Heath said of the decision. “It was a tough one to take.”
With the man advantage, Colorado would again push to take the lead – its best opportunity coming in the 88th minute off a Shkëlzen Gashi free kick. But Wilson’s low shot following the set piece bounced off of Shuttleworth and out of danger.
Colorado continued to push into stoppage time. On the final corner kick of the game, Gashi’s corner found Smith, whose goal would give the Rapids the lead for good.
“I’m pleased because we’ve been so close so many times,” Hudson said of the goal. “I’m pleased with Tommy’s reaction. He’s a strong character. He’s a big character. I was pleased that he got his reward and the goal in the end was for the whole team. It really was tonight a team performance.”
Up next, Colorado face Vancouver at BC Place Sunday, while Minnesota will return home to face FC Dallas on Friday night.