The Colorado Rapids secured the Western Conference's top seed in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs and clinched a berth in the 2022 Concacaf Champions League in an entertaining and goal-filled Decision Day match, defeating LAFC 5-2 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. LAFC were eliminated from postseason contention.
Paired with the Seattle Sounders' draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC and a Sporting Kansas City loss to Real Salt Lake, the Rapids sealed home-field advantage in the West, a Round One bye and their first CCL appearance since 2018.
Colorado broke through in the 18th minute when Jonathan Lewis had a perfect touch past Jamal Blackman on a Kellyn Acosta cross to make it a 1-0 lead. LAFC, needing a win and some help to clinch their own playoff berth, saw a massive chance to equalize go begging in the 26th as Cristian Arango had an open net, but fired it off the post. Bob Bradley then inserted Carlos Vela into the match at the half-hour mark as he sought to spark the attack.
Just minutes later, though, a Collen Warner shot inside the box deflected into the net off Blackman as the Rapids' lead grew to 2-0.
Lewis struck once more early in the second half to finish off his brace and increase the margin to 3-0, but Arango shook off his earlier miss shortly thereafter by converting past William Yarbrough to cut the lead to 3-1. Less than 10 minutes later, Cole Bassett gave himself space to knock in a banger from outside the box as the Rapids regained their three-goal cushion.
LAFC kept themselves in it when Brian Rodriguez's shot deflected off Steven Beitashour and past Yarbrough to make it a 4-2 affair with less than 20 minutes to go. But Dominique Badji made it 5-2 just minutes after entering the match.
That was the final margin as the Rapids locked up first in the West, also positioning themselves to possibly host MLS Cup should the New England Revolution fail to advance to the final.
- THE BIG PICTURE: The Rapids treated their fans to a classy performance to end the regular season. Robin Fraser deserves a great deal of credit for his work with the club in getting them to back-to-back playoff appearances after three straight years out, with their eyes now set on bringing a first MLS Cup since 2010 to the Rocky Mountains. For LAFC, questions abound after a disappointing campaign: Will Bob Bradley return in 2022? What about Vela, whose contract is set to expire next month?
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Lewis was very much in the mood for goals on Decision Day. Here's his second of the match as he put the Rapids up 3-0.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Lewis was a key figure in an impressive showing for the Rapids. The 24-year-old logged his first multi-goal performance in more than two years.
- COL: Western Conference Semifinal, Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs
- LAFC: End of season