On the road, the Rapids fell behind inside the opening 10 minutes and were then down a man when Danny Wilson was sent off for DOGSO in the 57th minute.
What ensued was an inspirational performance in a 3-1 win coach Robin Fraser lauded as a “character statement.”
“It’s what I’ve enjoyed about this team since I got here, that they don’t quit, they don’t have quit in them,” Fraser said after the match. "Not just down a goal, down a man – down a goal, down a man to a very, very good team and some really, really good players. Words can’t express how proud I am of this win and how proud I am of the team.”
While it’s not preferable, the Rapids have plenty of experience playing down a man recently. Lucas Esteves was sent off just past the hour mark in a 3-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders – a red card that was later rescinded.
“I think this team, it shows when it gets down to it at the end of games – a lot of teams lose that game, down a man, down a goal – we scored three goals,” said Cole Bassett, who scored the equalizer from the penalty spot Sunday. "Those are the special days. We will always remember these ones. Everybody played a part today and we are happy to pick up three points because of the tight race at the top.”
Fraser said what is even more special about the response is that it came during a late-season playoff push for both teams.
The Rapids are in third in the West, just one point behind second-place Sporting Kansas City, while the Loons are straddling the playoff line with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC just one point behind them.
“It’s not even necessarily just going down a man, it’s knowing that we’re down a goal and we need to get points, and if you look at the response of the entire team, the entire group of guys did such a great job," Fraser said. "Everyone will remember the goals and the fantastic things done by Jonny [Lewis], Michael [Barrios], Cole. Everyone will remember all that. What most people will forget is the very, very difficult work in the trenches in front of the goal between Will [Yarbrough], the defenders, everyone who was really dug in right in our box late in the game.
“When you think about both sides of it, you think about the group that really, really worked hard and defended, you think about the group that was really able to spark some of these really good counter-attacks. It just comes back to what I started with: what a team. What a team.”