The Vancouver Whitecaps get just their second win ever in Colorado in a 1-0 shutout over the Rapids. Brek Shea came off the bench and received an alert pass from fellow substitute Nicolás Mezquida at full stride, then calmly struck the ball between Tim Howard’s legs for the winning goal.
For only the second time ever, coach Robinson played the same starting 11 in three straight games in his new look 4-1-4-1. The formation now has two wins already on this four game road swing. David Ousted started in goal, with Williams, Waston, Parker and Harvey in front, Laba once again played the lone destroyer at the back of midfield, with Bolaños, Tchani, Jacobson and Techera moved further up field, and Montero as the lone striker. If everyone stays healthy, don’t be surprised to see this formation at least one more time in Houston.
The ‘Caps played a smart and controlled first half. They contained the Rapids forward momentum and denied them of any shots on Ousted. Colorado demonstrated why they are struggling in last place at the moment with poor crosses and numerous shots that flew well wide. The ‘Caps on the other hand, were able to control the ball when they kept it on the ground and create their share of chances off the wings. They only put two weak shots on Howard, but managed to keep the game scoreless to the halftime whistle. It bought enough time to figure out how to keep every long pass from sailing off in the thin mountain air.
The second half picked up as Colorado opened up their game, desperate to give their beleaguered fan base a goal to cheer for. They did bring the ball forward time and again only to continue sailing crosses over the goal line. That, combined with some truly poor quality in the final third gave Ousted very little to do. In fact, the Rapids’ best scoring opportunity came off a Jordan Harvey near own goal rebound off the post that Ousted was able to acrobatically backhand off the goal line. Harvey played a good game, and an own goal would have been unfair for the effort he put into his 250th MLS game.
The ‘Caps had their chances too and it looked like Christian Bolaños had the game winner on his foot point blank in front of goal at the 74’ mark, before his volley sailed over the bar.
The ‘Caps were able to shift into another gear once the subs came on. Alphonso Davies returned to beating players twice his age along the touch line, while showing impressive determination, balance and footwork to free himself from his opponents. But ultimately it was Mezquida and Shea who made the difference when Mezquida picked up the ball, controlled it with a touch and put the perfect pass right in front of Shea’s run. Wait, isn’t he still supposed to be two weeks away before returning from injury? Brek took the ball at full stride with only Howard to beat and stroked the ball through his legs and into the net. It may have been Howard’s first game back from a three game suspension, but you knew it was going to take something extra to get one by him.
Colorado, devastated by another impending loss, pressed harder for the equalizer. Gashi had numerous shots from outside the box that looked more and more dangerous, but the ‘Caps back line held strong. Parker had a particularly strong game, and he and Waston were solid in preserving the shutout. A second yellow to Mikeil Williams put the Rapids down a man in the final minutes and put the game out of reach.
Vancouver hadn’t won in Colorado for six straight games. With the Rapids struggles this season a door opened to change all that, and the ‘Caps showed how a smart and disciplined road game accentuated by an inspired moment of quality passing and finishing, together with a formation the team is increasingly comfortable with, was just the right formula to finally get their win.
That’s two road wins in a row, for those who are counting.