COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Frustrated by a disappointing 2012 in Vancouver and early finishing struggles in 2013, Rapids midfielder Atiba Harris has carried an extra chip on his shoulder lately, working overtime after practices to polish his game.
That extra work paid off in a big way for the 28-year-old on Saturday night, as he scored both of Colorado's goals in a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Harris started the game's scoring in the 56th minute by out-muscling Dallas defender Matt Hedges for positioning, winning a header that went into the bottom corner of the goal to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. Eight minutes later, Harris found himself alone in the box for a quick cross-goal finish to help the Rapids re-take the advantage.
While the Rapids conceded the equalizer (again) to Blas Perez just two minutes later, Harris' unexpectedly productive eight minutes brought a smile to his coach's face post-game.
"He's such a professional player, he's always working and he knew that he didn't have a good year last year," Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said of Harris post-game on Saturday. "[It's] an opportunity that the club is providing to him, he's embracing [it] and doing a great job. I¹m very happy for him."
It¹s the first multi-goal game for the eighth-year MLS veteran since 2006 and just the second brace of his career. Out of favor and hobbled by injuries, Harris played in only 12 MLS matches (eight starts) during his two-year stay in Vancouver from 2011-12. But armed with a change of scenery and a fresh opportunity, Harris has been a mainstay in Pareja¹s lineups from day one, starting in 13 of Colorado's 14 games so far this season.
But even as a regular starter, Harris battled finishing struggles to start the season, failing to capitalize on numerous scoring chances. Harris has worked on his finishing after practices, and he attributes that extra time to Saturday's positive result for him.
"I've been practicing my finishing," Harris said post-game on Saturday. "And it's kind of paying off now."
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.