After big game vs. SKC, Rapids talk up "special" rookie Kortne Ford

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Saturday night’s 1-0 win over visiting Sporting Kansas City marked a welcome return home for both the Colorado Rapids and their Homegrown rookie defender Kortne Ford.

Behind Ford’s first MLS goal in the 11th minute, Colorado earned its second home win in a row following back-to-back road defeats last week.

“It was amazing,” Ford said of his first goal in MLS. “Even better than that, we got the result.”

Ford’s goal came on a headed effort following a Shkëlzen Gashi free kick from the left side. The play was praised by Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who acknowledged that set pieces were a point of emphasis for his team heading into the weekend.

“I think set pieces had been eluding us a bit heading into this game, whether it was delivery or really being brave,” Mastroeni explained. “For me that goal was huge, especially when it came from a young man who was brave in that moment.”

Ford would nearly double Colorado’s lead before the half with another header on a corner from Gashi. But perhaps more importantly, the center back was a key contributor to a Rapids defense which weathered an offensive onslaught from Kansas City, who outshot Colorado 25-6 in the first half and held 73.4 percent of possession.

Those numbers weren’t important to Mastroeni.

“The pundits and the people who like to comment like to talk about possession and shots and all other kinds of metrics that have very little to do with heart,” he said. “I think that’s what we haven’t had this year. We’ve played some pretty football games and we’ve lost those games. It’s about being brave. It’s about sticking together.”

Ford and Colorado showed a good deal of tenacity throughout the match, with the rookie defender contributing three clearances, three interceptions and two blocks to help the Rapids to the clean sheet. A product of Greeley, Colo. and the nearby University of Denver, Ford is dealing with quite a bit off the field, as his mother fights an ongoing battle with cancer that sparked a show of support from Rapids fans earlier this year.

Her fight has given him a broader perspective and a sense of tenacity and bravery, qualities that Mastroeni believes will drive the 21-year-old to great heights in MLS.

“I think he’s a special player in that he realizes he has a way to go yet,” Mastroeni said. “He comes in every day and works extremely hard and asks a lot of questions. He’s just absorbing a lot of information.

“I think what you saw tonight has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with heart. It has everything to do with commitment. It takes everything to understand that in life there are greater challenges and he’s blessed to be able to play football. I think tonight was an exemplary performance from a young man who can goes as far as he believes.”