COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Colorado Rapids midfielder Atiba Harris had a whirlwind of a fortnight. Still, he wouldn’t change a thing.
First, on March 26, Harris and his wife welcomed the couple’s second child, daughter Keriana, leading to a sleepless week for the former FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder.
But even after grinding through a week of practice while taking care of baby Keriana, the new father turned out to be the difference for the Rapids in their 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
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Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja’s lone change to his starting lineup from the week prior was to bring the veteran Harris off the bench in place of youngster Tony Cascio. It took all of five minutes for the move to pay off.
Harris took a pass from Edson Buddle and quickly fired home from the edge of the six-yard box for his first score in a Colorado uniform and as a father of two. He celebrated the goal – the 18th in his MLS career – by "rocking the cradle" with teammates Deshorn Brown and Dillon Powers as a tribute to his newborn daughter.
"It was always planned; whenever I scored, I was going to dedicate it to her,” Harris said. “It’s always a blessing to bring a new life into this life, so I decided to honor her."
As if the goal wasn’t already sweet enough for the well-traveled native of Saint Kitts and Nevis, who was acquired in a November trade from Vancouver, it also exacted a slight measure of revenge. Harris scored against the team he first suited up for after joining MLS back in 2006.
Ironically, Harris’ goal now puts the Rapids in prime position to re-take the Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup away from RSL for the first time since – you guessed it – 2006, Harris’ first season in claret-and-cobalt.
So needless to say, perhaps nobody recognizes the importance of hoisting the Rocky Mountain Cup more than Harris.
"Whenever we play Salt Lake, we have to win,” Harris said. “There is no doubt about it. We’re at home, we need three points, it’s against our rival and we have to win for the city. For the whole state.”
And now, perhaps, for little Keriana as well.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.