Seventy minutes into Friday night’s contest at Providence Park, all seemed well for the Colorado Rapids.
Playing without a huge chunk of their midfield and losing striker Deshorn Brown to an early groin strain, the Rapids appeared destined for a huge road result, leading the Portland Timbers 1-0 on their home turf.
But then, the Timbers’ Argentine duo struck, first Maximiliano Urruti in the 72nd-minute on a near-post finish, then Diego Valeri struck with a terrific long-range effort five minutes later. The two goals were both fantastic goals from a desperate team on their home turf, but on the other side of the pitch, Friday’s late 2-1 loss was a tough pill to swallow for the shorthanded visitors.
“I thought the guys went out there and played hard,” head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who maintained a positive attitude postgame, said. “I think we lost to a world-class strike, and sometimes you have to tip your hat.”
Entering Friday’s match without the suspended Vicente Sanchez, Nick LaBrocca or Shane O’Neill and missing Jose Mari to a sprained ankle, lineups and history always made the game an uphill battle for the Rapids.
“We were digging deep,” Mastroeni said postgame.
More so, Colorado had lost all of their previous three visits to Portland, failing to even score in those three contests, and they’d collected just two points in their last five road contests in MLS play this year.
But showing a creative spark and working hard on both ends of the field, the Rapids led for exactly half of Friday’s contest, only to see their efforts go to waste in the final 20 minutes.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Brown went down in the 24th minute with a right groin strain, a massive blow to the 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year runner-up, who was enjoying arguably the finest form of his career. The 23-year-old Jamaican came up limping and was forced to sub off after scoring a scrappy 16th-minute goal that had his club in front for a large chunk of Friday’s game.
Despite coming up short, the Rapids kept their heads held high postgame.
“I’m disappointed that we come away with nothing,” Rapids captain Drew Moor said postgame. “At the end of the day we got beat by a world-class goal from Valeri. Probably could’ve closed his space down a little bit better, but I just told the guys in [the locker room] that this game alone is a microcosm of what the rest of this season is going to be like.
“We’ve got some young guys in there, we’ve got some guys banged up in there, but if we put forth that effort and that attitude and just tighten things up a little bit more, then we’re going to make the playoffs and make a good run at it.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.