Following last week's disappointing 2-0 home defeat to the Seattle Sounders, Carl Robinson remarked that the good teams in the league bounce back from setbacks. This very clearly represented the objective for the Whitecaps heading into Commerce City after restoring some momentum midweek in Edmonton, though achieving the task at hand was never going to be simple. Since joining MLS in 2011, the Blue and White have taken three points away from Dick's Sporting Goods Park on only one occasion and have lost four of their five meetings battling the altitude. What's more, Vancouver headed into the contest fatigued by their second three-game week of the year while Colorado turned up to play on the back of a fourteen-day rest period, unable to face Sporting Kansas City last Saturday thanks to Mother Nature. Nonetheless, claiming an unfamiliar result in such uncomfortable surroundings maintained strong likelihood considering how the Caps have stormed the standings and how their burgundy-coloured opposition have struggled through the first three months of the regular season. If Wednesday's victory in the Voyageurs Cup was a test of character, this fixture was to gauge in some part how far the team have come from the days where resilience was as commonplace as a Rapids goal during the opening weeks of the campaign.
Clashing with Seattle and Edmonton in such close proximity forced Robbo into practising the art of rotation and again offered a stage to demonstrate the value in harbouring strong depth in the roster. Kendall Waston made his third start in the space of eight days - testament to his integral role at the heart of the back-line - however Pedro Morales, Russell Teibert and Cristian Techera were afforded well deserved respite after making the line-up twice beforehand. In their places stepped Mauro Rosales in behind Octavio Rivero, Gershon Koffie alongside the heroic Matias Laba in the engine-room, and Kianz Froese to make his first ever start in MLS action. David Ousted has been instrumental in securing points on the road this term and received the captain's armband. Pablo Mastroeni's XI featured Clint Irwin between the sticks; James Riley, Drew Moor, Axel Sjoberg and Marc Burch in defence; Sam Cronin, Lucas Pittinari and Dillon Powers occupying the middle of the park; with Gabriel Torres, Juan Ramirez and Luis Solignac headlining the attack. Solignac made his highly anticipated debut with the subplot that the Argentine was reportedly a transfer target in British Columbia previously. Designated Player Kevin Doyle was named in the eighteen for the first time after moving from Wolverhampton Wanderers, installing newfound optimism in Mastroeni's ranks.
Rainfall before kick-off in the Mile High City helped to create a slick surface with pressing proving especially effective so as to capitalize on lapses of concentration across all areas of the field. The hosts were eager to couple that aspect of their approach with physicality, conceding a number of fouls to slow down the tempo and alleviate the counter-attacking threat in the early goings. Despite this, Rivero rose to the challenge by turning defenders inside out with thrilling regularity, maneuvering himself into pockets of space in the final third before torturing the men commissioned to stop him with cerebral movement. 13 minutes in, the 6'7" frame of Sjoberg collided with Rosales sharing more in common with a Broncos linebacker than a centre-back. The incident evoked much fear but thankfully left the visitors without any reason to remain worried after the diminutive veteran took some time to compose himself on the deck. Kekuta Manneh registered the game's first clear-cut chance, watching his well-hit effort denied in pretty spectacular fashion by Irwin to culminate a largely positive stint in possession. Shortly thereafter, tempers rose inside the eighteen-yard box as Irwin interpreted Froese's totally honest attempt on a loose ball as an act of malice. Kianz received a booking for a crime he didn't commit, though the Rapids men surrounding the referee in petulant protest didn't exactly preserve the objectivity the unfortunate 19-year-old deserved.
Each outfit tried their hand at bearing fruit by means of swift transition from defence to offence, broadcasting Laba's influence in particular as he orchestrated counters in typically seamless fashion. Rivero ascended into vacated air space majestically on a sublime corner-kick delivery from Rosales late in the opening 45 and was desperately unlucky to have seen his headed attempt rattle the crossbar. It was time for the break, but the beginning of the second half was extended due to torrential downpour and the lingering danger of lightning strikes in the area. There were benefits to this for VWFC though, given the lethargy exhibited by some of the guys heading into the interval after the high tempo start to proceedings. Moreover, for once it wasn't on Ousted to cut his colleagues some slack with his various tactics to aid recovery in difficult conditions. Dillon Powers exacted his first contribution once action resumed playing Torres through, and while unsuccessful on that effort the two would combine again almost immediately following that with a more profitable outcome. Powers sprayed a similarly surgical pass to Torres on the edge of the area, who somehow succeeded in deftly flicking the ball onto the onrushing Lucas Pittinari. Pittinari shot uncontested and Ousted was rendered helpless by the sudden nature to the strike as it acquainted itself with his goal at the 51st.
Undoubtedly the Caps paid the ultimate price for their lackadaisical attitude coming out of the delay, however the Great Dane stopped things going from bad to worse with a fantastic close-range stop on Solignac. Its significance rejuvenated the guests slightly and the introduction of Techera combined with the save to steady the ship somewhat, but the apparent lack of confidence required inspiration to relent. Manneh did little to impress as a starter, supporting the opinion that he is most useful to his team as a sub, and was eventually swapped for Darren Mattocks with that need for fresh ideas in mind. Powers was granted far too much space for an individual of his quality and would have buried the foregone goal of the week were it not for yet another sensational play from Ousted - the keeper is always alert regardless of whether his peers are and that in itself is arguably his most important attribute. Jordan Harvey made a return to the club that drafted him and collaborated with his shot-stopper to made it memorable, rejecting Solignac a goal on his debut. Morales replaced Laba and smashed home a free-kick with less than ten minutes remaining on the clock, only for the man with the whistle to chalk it off for an infringement on the wall that only he could have noticed. It was agonizing and yet came with little semblance of surprise because of the well-documented refereeing problem at the height of the North American game. It felt as if Juan Carlos Rivero was affected by both the crowd and the Rapids players, with the Froese booking and the non-call on Koffie prior to the opener adding to a strong case against the official too.
It was a devastating evening by all accounts, yet unlike the defeat to the Earthquakes by the same scoreline after a tough scheduling break I personally find it hard to blame the players. Maybe that's my naivety showing through, but the group reacted to adversity with tremendous industry and in a vacuum there's no way that outcome holds. If there is something to be happy about it is surely the performance of Mauro Rosales in the #10 role. He looked like a genius in his prime in the first half, not a 34-year-old enduring an injury stained start to the season, and showed remarkable defensive hustle to complement his creative exploits. It was the display away from home that everyone wants Pedro to emulate and fans should be excited that the skipper will have his opportunity to build on an encouraging cameo today during the forthcoming road trip. Recognition is also owed to Octavio for his work whilst being kicked and harassed for the entirety of his appearance. Goals write headlines for strikers - for better or worse - but what he did off the ball completely blew me away. He's a unique entity in this league and his calculated intelligence will only continue to open doors for the Caps this year, especially when the side start to play the lights out soccer they so often promise at present. Now, it's time to look forward and ahead to meeting Real Salt Lake. There is possibility for Vancouver to bid farewell to BC Place until July 12th by enjoying a much needed backlash in front of the home faithful, but to do that they need our support. Let's get behind the boys.