COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Gabriel Torres turned his mid-week Panamanian heartbreak into heartbreak for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday afternoon.
Just days after returning from Panama’s 3-2 loss to the US on the final day of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, Torres blasted home a brilliant 77th minute strike to give the Colorado Rapids a wild 3-2 win at a sold-out Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, eliminating the Whitecaps from playoff contention and putting the Rapids on the brink of clinching a playoff berth for the third time in four years.
The 24-year-old Torres, who became the Rapids’ first Designated Player in club history in August, unleashed an unstoppable blast just outside the 18-yard box just two minutes after Vancouver had tied the game up, the second of his two goals that put Colorado ahead for good.
The Whitecaps, meanwhile, were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the defeat despite 18-year-old Kekuta Manneh’s brilliant 32nd minute goal and a 75th minute penalty from Camilo.
The Rapids moved into a tie with the Sounders and Galaxy for the third spot in the West with the win, while moving four points ahead of the Earthquakes for the last spot in the West.
Daigo Kobayashi’s fifth-minute shot just outside the penalty box went straight into the hands of Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin, the first opportunity for either side on a crisp, sunny afternoon in suburban Denver.
But the Rapids applied the majority of the early pressure. Vicente Sanchez recorded Colorado’s first chance on net in the 12th, as his free kick flew straight into the arms of Whitecaps ‘keeper David Ousted. Thirteen minutes later, Deshorn Brown should have put Colorado in front, but in a one-on-one with Ousted, the rookie pushed his effort disappointingly wide of goal.
But even with the Rapids controlling the majority of the early proceedings, against the run of play, Vancouver jumped in front thanks to a moment of brilliance from their teenage sensation Manneh. Cutting in from the left side, Manneh sent an unstoppable blast from just outside the penalty box into the top corner, leaving Irwin helpless and giving the Whitecaps the 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
But the Rapids found the equalizer a few minutes later. Colorado defender Drew Moor was dragged down in the box by Carlyle Mitchell and despite fierce protests from Vancouver coach Martin Rennie, referee Armando Villarreal pointed to the spot. Torres coolly converted for his second goal in a Rapids uniform.
On the other side of the break, the Rapids continued to apply the pressure on the Whitecaps back line, and they broke through quickly. After Vancouver allowed a goal kick to bounce in the 50th minute, rookie Deshorn Brown beat Lee Young-Pyo to the ball and niftily chipped over Ousted, putting the Rapids in front 2-1. The goal was Brown’s 10th of the season, just one goal off Damani Ralph’s MLS rookie record of 11.
But the Whitecaps, playing for their playoff lives, continued to fight. In the 75th minute, Villarreal pointed to the spot after Shane O’Neill’s sloppy challenge took down Jordan Harvey in the box, and Camilo converted for his 19th goal of the season.
Two minutes later, however, and Torres had his terrific answer, cutting inside on Harvey and unleashing a blast from 19 yards out that bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net, pushing Colorado to the brink of a playoff berth.
The two sides finish their regular seasons against one another next Sunday at BC Place, with the Whitecaps now only playing for pride (8 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Gabriel Torres||Colorado's first-ever DP netted a well-taken brace, and brought teammates into the game with effective hold-up and combination play.|
|2||Deshorn Brown||The Jamaican exploited a favorable matchup with Young-Pyo Lee and moved closer to Damani Ralph's MLS rookie scoring record.|
|3||Kekuta Manneh||Another amazing goal and a promising overall display from a rare talent who is still just 18 years old.|