Sporting Kansas City entered Wednesday night’s match with hopes to lock up a playoff berth, but following a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of the Colorado Rapids, SKC will have their fate determined on Decision Day.
Second half goals by Dillon Powers and Marcelo Sarvas were the deciding factors in the win for Colorado, which have taken on the role of spoiler after being eliminated from playoff contention on Oct 4. It marked the first win for the Rapids since Aug. 29, a 2-1 result over SKC at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“It’s by far the best performance of the year,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni said postgame. “Coming into a place with nothing to play for as far as playoffs are concerned, the guys have been training exceptionally well. Two world class goals against a very good team that has a lot on the line speaks volumes of the type of character we have in that locker room.”
A win by SKC on Wednesday would’ve punched their ticket to the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and Colorado used their opponent’s desperation and urgency to their advantage. The Rapids pushed forward with counterattacks in opportune moments, and the strategy paid off with the Rapids leading shots on goal 3-1 at the half.
“They’re a team that likes to press and move their lines high. The space they give you is the space behind. That was the focus of our preparation this week,” Mastroeni explained. “All of the planning and preparation was executed perfectly tonight.”
Added Sarvas, “We played very smart. KC had to win and we used this against them to neutralize their strengths with the counterattacks.”
It bore fruit in the 78th minute with a chipped goal by Powers, and a second by Sarvas eight minutes later with 10-men following the sending off of Sam Cronin in the 84th. It was the kind of break that the Rapids have missed out on throughout the 2015 campaign.
“Is it frustrating? No, because this is where we’re at,” Mastroeni said. “It’s moving from today forward. What we’re talking about is who’s willing to fight when there’s nothing left from a playoff perspective. The players didn’t allow any of that to effect where they were at today.”
So while Decision Day will have a limited impact on the Rapids aside from 2016 MLS SuperDraft implications, the team will nevertheless seek to be decision makers in Sunday's Western Conference showdown against Portland (7 pm ET, ESPN3/MLS Live).
“Spoilers are all we can get at this point. But that wasn’t the point. It’s about who we are and who we want to be perceived as,” emphasized Mastroeni. “Hopefully we’ll go to Portland with the same type of mentality and get the same result.”