Return of playmaker Vicente Sanchez sparks Colorado Rapids to victory over Vancouver Whitecaps

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – When Vicente Sanchez limped out of the Colorado Rapids’ 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 3, Rapids fans understandably held their collective breath over the Uruguayan playmaker’s health.

Nearly two months later, Sanchez made his return to MLS play, putting in a strong 69-minute shift in the Rapids' 2-0 win Saturday over the Vancouver Whitecaps that featured his sixth goal of the season.

But that may have been the least of his contributions.

Sanchez’s deft creativity – so sorely missed during his nearly two-month absence – featured his predictably unpredictable touch, this time coming in the form of a 40th-minute bicycle kick that nearly went into the back of the net. Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted made a diving stop on the 34-year-old’s volley, denying a goal but providing the loudest “ooh” from the crowd all night. It's something Sanchez has a knack for delivering just about every time he’s on the field.

“I’m happy,” Sanchez said postgame. “I don’t have any pain in my leg and the team collected three important points against Vancouver.”

Sanchez also played in two US Open Cup matches earlier this month, but he said several times Saturday night that he felt fully fit in his first league match back. And he showed it, making strong runs deep into the second half.

Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni prefers to focus on team-oriented aspects in postgame press conferences, but even for him it was difficult to ignore the unique qualities that Sanchez provides on the field, although he chose to focus on Sanchez’s fitness as his prime takeaway from Saturday’s game.

“He could’ve [gone 90 minutes],” Mastroeni said of Sanchez. “More importantly, for him, to finish the game in the form that he did, which was really good, and now to build on that next week.”

For teammates such as Dillon Powers, who scored on a terrific 20th-minute strike, Saturday’s return of the Rapids’ most unique player meant added room to work with and an additional, consistent threat to draw defenders away throughout the night.

“[Vicente] brings a lot of confidence for everyone else around him. It brings the whole team up,” Powers said postgame. “Stepping up for that [penalty kick], you know he’s going to score it. It’s nice to have another guy who can unlock the game in there.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.