COMMERCE CITY - A pair of penalty kicks propelled Colorado Rapids to a 2-0 win over LAFC under unprecedented circumstances Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“I’m so (expletive) proud of this team,” Rapids coach Robin Fraser said after the team completed its second game in the span of two days.
The Rapids concluded their weather-delayed US Open Cup match Thursday less than 48 hours before Saturday’s kickoff. The prep window was further reduced by delayed flights that had the team land in Colorado on Friday morning. The Rapids went right to the stadium where they went through their usual preparations – film study on their opponents and set pieces before taking the field for practice.
“I felt like for their mindset they needed to do what we do to get ready for games,” Fraser said. “Yesterday was miserable. We got up really, really early.”
It was all worth it Saturday, as the Rapids beat the leaders of the Western Conference.
“Our mindset had to be so strong. We all had excuses. Everybody could say anything about the past and just dwell on that,” defender Auston Trusty said. “We decided to focus as a team.”
The Rapids announced their intentions early, as Danny Wilson nearly opened the scoring in the first five minutes with a powerful header that forced a save from LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy. The home crowd of 15,022 wouldn’t have to wait much longer to celebrate the first goal.
After Diego Rubio drew a foul in the penalty area, Gyasi Zardes scored his first goal for the club when he put his penalty kick past McCarthy in the 17th minute.
“So happy to see Gyasi get on the scoreboard for us,” Fraser said. “That’s phenomenal. His work rate for us is incredible, and him leading the charge in our press is very instrumental in how we did.”
When Jonathan Lewis was fouled in the box roughly 10 minutes later, Rubio stepped up to take the kick. McCarthy initially made a lunging save, but a consultation with Video Assistant Referee (VAR) showed the LAFC keeper left his line early. Rubio smashed his second attempt to cushion Colorado’s lead.
“There could not have been a more emphatic finish,” Fraser said of Rubio’s team-leading sixth goal of the season.
The Rapids recorded the only three shots on goal in the first half and put a couple more on frame in the first 10 minutes of the second half, as Danny Wilson and Lewis had their attempts saved.
Colorado goalkeeper William Yarbrough made his first save in the 71st minute and came up with another stop in the final 10 minutes to preserve the clean sheet and a big win for the Rapids.
“It was crucial for us,” Trusty said.
“It’s been a weird week in general, but it’s great to end the week on a high.”
The Rapids have a day or two to rest before a busy stretch of the season continues Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City.
“We need to recognize not just how we played, but how we approached the game,” Fraser said. If we continue to approach the game like this, then it definitely can be a springboard for us. It’s the belief, the resiliency.”
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