It wasn’t all that pretty, but it was certainly effective.
The Colorado Rapids stretched their unbeaten run to a franchise best of nine games with a 1-0 win at Portland on Saturday night, somehow managing to escape with the victory just as it looked as if an MLS record of seven straight ties was on the cards for the visitors.
Drew Moor’s stoppage-time goal following a Jamie Smith free kick was a huge relief to the Rapids, who enjoyed their first win since May 4.
“Tonight was about being strong, being willing and being determined,” said Colorado boss Gary Smith. “I thought the guys showed those qualities in absolute abundance.”
Portland, who have now lost three straight games – including two at JELD-WEN Field – play to their strengths at home on a tight pitch with a lot of energy, Smith said. The Rapids’ game plan was to counter that with their own energetic and determined play and hope to get something out of the game from a set piece or counter.
“This pitch leads to certain qualities and a certain style and they do it very well,” Smith said. “Away from home, you sometimes need more than creativity and we showed real spirit and guile. The players really stood up strong.”
None more so perhaps than Matt Pickens and Tyrone Marshall, who were rocks in defense. Pickens came up with at least two crucial saves, and Marshall – who could have been with Jamaica at the CONCACAF Gold Cup but opted to stay with his club to help fill in for an injured Marvell Wynne – regularly ran down the Timbers speedy attackers.
Pickens’ vital performance allowed the Rapids to keep a clean sheet, something that – along with scoring multiple goals – they have struggled to do recently.
“Matt was excellent again,” Smith said. “And Tyrone was absolutely incredible. That was possibly [Marshall’s] best game for us, and he’s been playing to a very good standard, but I think he might have tipped it there.”
The Rapids made just one substitution on the night, with Quincy Amarikwa coming on for Conor Casey with about 15 minutes to go. Smith said he was happy with the way strike pairing of Casey and Caleb Folan had consistently applied pressure on the Timbers’ defense, but felt the team could use a fresh spark towards the end of the match.
“We just needed a little bit of energy there at the end,” Smith said.
The Rapids return home to face the LA Galaxy next Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Saturday’s win at Portland will make that prospect a little more enticing.
“I hope tonight just gives the lads that added bit of confidence and composure,” Smith said.