As the only MLS team who have yet to score in the 2023 season, the Colorado Rapids were definitely looking for a little home cooking, if you will. Besides being highly motivated to get their season back on track, they would be facing a Minnesota United team that had never left Commerce City with a win. Fortunately, for the Loons, that was about to change.
Midway through the first half, the Loons began to find their rhythm as they put the pressure on Colorado’s backline. Notably, Ménder García and Bongokuhle Hlongwane were freaking everywhere on the pitch. Garcia was on the hunt for an early score, buzzing around the Colorado defense to try and steal the lead. Not to be outdone, Bongi made sure his impact was felt on both ends of the field, attacking the goal and getting back for big defensive plays.
The defensive line held strong early and snuffed out any challenges by the Colorado attack. It wasn’t until the late moments of the first half when things got dicey, with Colorado’s Anthony Markanich missing a frozen rope from just outside the box. Michael Barrios nearly did the same in stoppage time, but St. Clair was able to secure the save and keep the game knotted up at 0-0 going into the half.
The second half began with García heading off for striker Luis Amarilla. It would prove to be the right change to the lineup at the right time. That right time definitely wasn’t in the 49th minute, though, as the Rapids did away with the whole “scoreless for the season” narrative. Cole Bassett was able to skim a low, driven shot just out of the reach of a diving St. Clair, deflecting off the far post and in. 1-0, Rapids.
Fortunately, the right time for Amarilla came in the 54th minute, as a Colorado hand ball in the box resulted in a MNUFC penalty kick. At that moment, Amarilla made the most of his opportunity. His stutter and strike duped Rapids keeper William Yarbrough to go left when Amarilla went right and into the net. 1-1, even.
The 56th minute of play saw another substitution from Coach Adrian Heath, with Franco Fragapane coming on for Hassani Dotson. Again, the substitution proved fruitful as the MNUFC attack picked up the pace with Fragapane’s speed at their disposal. This would also prove to be a key lineup change that left an impact on the outcome of the game.
The 67th minute saw a sequence of shots on goal by Colorado where it was a “follow the bouncing ball” situation with a deflection off the crossbar ricocheting up in the air, then once more, before a Colorado laser shot of an attempt went wide of the goal. An equally nerve-racking moment came in the 78th minute when a dangerous cross from Colorado nearly found a diving Diego Rubio before St. Clair stepped in to stop the pressure with a clutch save.
Then, in the 82nd minute, the Loons took control of the game with an absolute beauty of a score from a Fragapane free kick that found Micky Tapias for a header that was redirected beautifully past Yarbrough. 2-1, Looooooooons!
From that point on, it was all about ball control and the resolve of the backline in the face of a Rapids attack that desperately pressed to find a late game equalizer. Thankfully, both came to pass. The Loons were able to dig deep and keep Colorado out of the net to come away with a thrilling first (yes, like ever) win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.