Things are never dull for the Colorado Rapids, not in a 2016 season that's been defined by "#keepfighting". Though, for a brief moment it might have seemed like an easy game, the Rapids against the Seattle Sounders is far from decided after the first leg. After a hard fought battle with lots of back and forth action, the Sounders won round one, 2-1.
The game began with Colorado getting forward and creating the first danger with a nice Kevin Doyle cross within the box to Dominique Badji getting tipped out for a corner. After letting Seattle get a chance in with Nelson Valdez the Rapids struck first in the 13th minute. Off a Jermaine Jones pass in midfield, Shkelzen Gashi opened up space with a fake, letting the ball slip through to Doyle who with a first-time strike put the ball over Seattle keeper Stefan Frei after taking a deviation off the defense.
Just like that, all was set up for a perfect night for Pablo Mastroeni’s team giving them the all important away score and an early lead. Simply put, you couldn’t have drawn up a better start for Colorado who took control in the first 15 minutes controlling possession at a 59-percent clip.
All that wouldn’t last for long, as this game wasn’t for the faint of heart with constant back and forth action in a wild match. Cristian Roldan, the Seattle native and revelation this season, took a shot from outside the box that Zac MacMath was unable to get a hand on, though it wouldn’t go in the shot bounced off the left post for an easy tip-in by an attentive Jordan Morris.
Everything changed after that as the game became testy with the referring calls coming into play and rarely going Colorado’s way. Marc Burch was tricked into a foul by Seattle star and pest Nicolas Lodeiro who pulled off an acting job worthy of the Academy Awards. Lodeiro began to create danger and the Rapids, who Mastroeni had mentioned had to stop the Uruguayan star, struggled to limit his impact.
As the half ended tied up at one with Colorado virtually leading the series on away goals, they were lucky to not have been in deeper. MacMath, thrown into the fire after a Tim Howard injury suffered with the national team, came up huge on consecutive plays; first shoving a point blank shot out for a corner with his big paws and then on the corner stopping a Valdez header right in front of the net.
Mastroeni had his team ready to play in the second half as Jermaine Jones was more physical and began to “boss” his way around midfield - as his coach likes to say. Early on it was Colorado who got forward and attempted to take the lead back, but Lodeiro’s danger and savviness in drawing fouls proved crucial.
Once again Burch was drawn in by the Uruguayan talent in a non-threatening position but in the penalty box. Penalty kick Sounders just like that on a relatively benign foul but a foul none the less. Lodeiro the pest stepped up and cleanly put the ball past MacMath.
The Rapids showed their character once again as they came out swinging trying to get forward and take the game to the opponent but never playing crisply enough to make it count. The passes in the final third never got through to truly hurt. Sebastian Le Toux had a great chance face-to-face with Frei, but instead of dishing it off to a wide-open Marlon Hairston he attempted an awkward shot right into the keeper.
Lodeiro and Seattle had themselves another great opportunity with the Sounders No. 10 just barely missing a left-footed curler over the goal. After a very open ended game, the final minutes saw little excitement.
2-1 Seattle was the final score Tuesday night. Now, once again, the Rapids will need to win at home to make their way to the next round.
They don't ever make it easy but they're also not a team you'd want to bet against at home, these Colorado Rapids are far from done fighting but on this night the Sounders were more dangerous and clever when it mattered most.