The Rapids went undefeated at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park during the 2016 regular season en route to one of the best campaigns in club history. It’s a new season now, but Colorado continue to work on silencing the doubters.
“To start off with a win and three points was fantastic,” said midfielder Dillon Powers. “We were able to incorporate some of the points we’ve been working on in the preseason, so that was a plus. I still think we’re a long way from where we want to be, but to get a result and not necessarily play our best stuff was a very positive thing.
“Just because we had one good year doesn’t mean we’ve quite gotten the respect we deserve. We still have a lot to earn and it’s a challenge we look forward to.”
Buoyed by a clean sheet on defense and Dominique Badji’s headed goal in the 52nd minute, the Rapids earned Saturday’s result despite missing the services of the injured Tim Howard (groin) and Shkelzen Gashi (achilles), and the offseason departure of Jermaine Jones to the LA Galaxy.
“Both Tim and Gashi are huge parts of this group,” said Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “But we talk about ‘the next man up.’ We talk about ‘team.’ A lot of people say ‘team,’ but I think the word gets thrown around and it’s really cheap.
“Team is not making excuses when the guys aren’t there. Team is the next guy stepping up and playing a very good game. Team is helping your partner out of the dumps when he can’t find his way. Last year we wanted an identity and I think we did that last year. It’s an old-school team that knows their roles well and lives up to their responsibilities. It understands how not living up to that standard could cost us a game.”
With Howard’s status listed as “day to day,” the Rapids saw a stellar performance from Zac MacMath, who came up with several saves – including one from point-blank range on Revs star forward Kei Kamara in the first half.
“He had two or three great saves and the decisions he made with his feet were fantastic,” Mastroeni said, of MacMath. “I always say your goalkeeper has to make one big save a game, and I think Zac did that and kept us in the game, allowed us to grow into it, and find our way.”
In stifling the Revs' top attacking options in Kamara and Juan Agudelo, the Rapids continued to demonstrate that their defensive identity is a winning formula in MLS.
“I think our backline was superb,” Mastroeni said. “But again, defending starts with our front line, and goes all the way back.”
Yet for him, it was about much more than tactics alone.
“We can talk tactics all we want. It’s about players, it’s about characters, it’s about men, it’s about willingness, it’s about commitment, it’s about finding a way to get a result. Especially in the first game of the season after a long preseason,” he said. “My hat is off to all of those guys in the locker room that really dug in deep and got a great three points to start the season.”