Apr 14, 2018; Commerce City, CO, USA; Colorado Rapids midfielder Jack Price (19) (center) celebrates his goal in the first half of the match against the Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Rapids led from start to finish in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Toronto FC, following Jack Price’s first goal in MLS in the 2nd minute and Shkëlzen Gashi’s penalty kick goal in the 78th minute.
It marked the second-straight home victory of 2018 for Colorado, which is now unbeaten in four straight. The Rapids now head to Sandy, Utah for a Saturday night date with Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Real Salt Lake.
Here are three things we learned from Colorado’s win over Toronto FC:
Good Gashi, healthy Gashi, good for everybody
“A good Gashi, a healthy Gashi is good for the team and it helps everybody,” Rapids forward Shkëlzen Gashi told reporters ahead of Saturday’s match.
Head coach Anthony Hudson revealed during the week that the Designated Player would be available for selection for the first time, and the Swiss-Albanian was indeed on the 18-man gameday roster as an option on the bench. His insertion into the game for Jack McBean in the 69th minute marked Gashi’s first competitive action since October, and he delivered.
“He’s had a tough preseason and has obviously missed a lot of football,” Hudson explained. “Look, he’s an exciting player and he has plenty of quality.”
After Dominique Badji was taken down in the penalty area in the 77th minute, Gashi stepped up to take the penalty kick. He delivered an effort with pace and accuracy to double Colorado’s lead. As the Rapids have proven recently, penalty kicks aren’t a given, so Gashi’s effort was arguably a boost for the team’s morale as well.
“It shows that the team is together and unselfish,” Price said postgame. “Badji could’ve took it himself – he’s scored four and could’ve easily had five. But it was perfect. It was a great penalty.”
Gashi also put in a solid effort from the run of play, completing 83 percent of his passes and tallying two shots (both on target). He also chipped in defensively with an interception and a recovery late in the game – important contributions considering the Rapids problems with late game management to start their first four games.
“The good thing about when Gashi came on is worked well with the ball, he worked off the ball and he did a job for the team when there have been question marks about our team when we take a lead,” Hudson said. “We need everyone to step up.”
Rapids wingback Kip Colvey started the match but struggled in his 39 minutes of play before Hudson had seen enough and pulled him from the match.
“I felt we needed something a little bit different and that was it; a tactical change,” Hudson said of the move.
Hudson, like any coach, has his favorites. Colvey was brought in as one of multiple New Zealand internationals Hudson grew familiar with during his time managing the All Whites. So, while starting Colvey in this match could be looked upon as a mistake and possible waste of a substitution early, his insertion of Dillon Serna in the first half can inversely be seen as a coach swallowing his pride for the betterment of the team.
“Just energy. What I bring to the game is energy.” Serna said of Hudson’s assignment. “One of the biggest things I bring are energy, work rate and sticking to the game plan. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
It proved to be the right move, as Serna had nearly the same number of unsuccessful passes (7) in 51 minutes as Colvey (6) in 39 minutes. As for successful passes, Serna’s total (13) was nearly double Colvey’s six completed passes. Serna also contributed offensively, including an 81st-minute shot that nearly put the Rapids in front by three goals.
Boli’s first minutes a promising footnote
Jack Price’s first MLS goal. Shkëlzen Gashi’s first goal in 11 months. The first game minutes for new arrival Yannick Boli. Saturday’s game gave optimists reasons to believe the best is yet to come from Anthony Hudson’s Colorado Rapids.
Boli earned his first game minutes in a Rapids uniform as a 79th-minute substitute for Enzo Martinez, and while his contributions were modest (three completed passes in just over 10 minutes of play), it was a positive sign that a Colorado Rapids attack suddenly scoring goals has the potential to get even better.
“I actually thought he did well,” Hudson said. “It’s been tough for him, because he hasn’t played a game in such a long time. Because of that, he’s needed to get fit and he still needs to get fit. To come into a game like that and play, he hasn’t had preseason games, he needs a preseason game and he’s been thrown up top with Badji. I thought what he needed to do, he had to do, he did well. He had some good touches at times, he was a threat, and for his first appearance, I was pleased.”
Boli has maintained a professional attitude while continuing through the process.
“It’s all about rhythm,” Boli said. “I have to get back my feeling, sensation with the ball and how to move the ball. I need time and I need to play. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but every day I keep getting better and better in training. Every day I keep feeling stronger.”