Colorado secured consecutive victories for the first time in 2018 and Bismarck ‘Nana’ Adjei-Boateng scored his first goal in burgundy as the Rapids defeated San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on a beautiful summer Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The Rapids needed yet another stoppage time effort to defeat their fellow Western Conference bottom-dwellers, a result which finds Colorado eleven points below the red line with eleven games left in the regular season.
“I wish it wasn’t another late one,” Manager Anthony Hudson lamented post-match, “the game should’ve been put away in the first half.”
Colorado lined-up in the 4-4-2-Diamond from the start and threatened the Earthquakes from early on in the match. In the fourth minute, Marlon Hairston whipped a fantastic cross into the six-yard box for Jack McBean, whose headed effort was saved by Andrew Tarbell. Seven minutes later, Boateng set up Edgar Castillo for a long-range shot outside the box that sailed inches over the bar.
Then, in the twenty-fourth minute, the Rapids once again demonstrated their prowess on set pieces by opening the scoring off a designed short corner routine. Kellyn Acosta played a one-two with Sam Nicholson and sent the ensuing cross directly to Tommy Smith, who scored his third of the season. Acosta’s assist registered as the midfielder’s third goal contribution in as many games.
Immediately after the goal, San Jose sent a long ball over the top for Danny Hoesen, who squared the ball to Jahmir Hyka in Colorado’s box. Hyka danced around Kortne Ford and sent a driven strike across goal that Tim Howard was just able to parry away with an outstretched leg.
After the Earthquakes’ chance, Hudson replaced Enzo Martinez for versatile homegrown Dillon Serna. Martinez had been dispossessed twice and failed to record a shot across his twenty-eight minutes of play.
“Our passing was quite slow,” Hudson said of the change in the post-match, “We needed someone to give us an injection of energy.”
The tactical substitution would prove to work wonders. Serna added an extra level of speed to the Rapids’ lineup and Colorado was able to dominate the midfield for most of the match. Price, Acosta, Boateng, and Serna combined to complete 291 passes and the team as a whole held 59.3% possession on the night.
San Jose would enjoy a pair of chances towards the end of the first half that were both denied by Howard, who made five saves and completed ninety percent of his passes over the course of the match.
“Nights like this you appreciate,” the veteran goalkeeper explained to the media following the win. “I know I’ve taken some criticism over the last few weeks,” Howard continued, “I think people think it probably hurts, but I’ve been getting criticized for twenty-one years so these types of performances I get myself in good positions and try to make the saves I can.”
[Evolution of Colorado’s Lineup vs. San Jose]
While Howard stopped every San Jose chance from open play, the Earthquakes were able to get on the board in the fifty-eighth minute after Ford committed a rough challenge in the box. Alan Kelly immediately pointed to the spot and a consultation with Video Assistant Referee Armando Villarreal would confirm the call. Magnus Eriksson sent Howard the wrong way to even the score.
Both sides would exchange chances throughout the second half, but San Jose seemed content with long-range efforts that consistently flew over Colorado’s net. On the other hand, the Rapids created their opportunities from the flanks, allowing their fullbacks to overlap and spread the Earthquakes defense across the pitch.
While Colorado and San Jose both had ample opportunity to take control of the second half, it was an act of violent aggression by Earthquakes veteran fullback Shea Salinas that would turn the tide of the match.
In the eighty-seventh minute, Dillon Serna pulled Salinas’ shirt and the thirty-two year old San Jose defender retaliated by throwing a harsh elbow in Serna’s face. Kelly showed red to Salinas and Colorado quickly saw their opportunity to take all three points.
As fatigue set in for the undermanned Earthquakes in the the second minute of stoppage time, Castillo found Boateng on the left side of the box. Boateng cut inside, faked out Aníbal Godoy, and sent a shot around four Earthquakes defenders into the back of Tarbell’s net.
“I’m very happy to score this goal for the boys,” Boateng said to Altitude TV after the match, “we are finally getting the results we need.
The twenty-four year old Ghanaian had connected very well with Castillo on the left side throughout the match and it was only a matter of time before the partnership paid dividends. Boateng finished the night leading the Rapids in tackles (7), key passes (3), interceptions (3), and blocks (2).
While the win will continue to build confidence for Colorado, the team still has ample room for improvement. The Rapids once again demonstrated an inability to be clinical in the final third for most of the match and committed yet another reckless error in defense that allowed the Earthquakes to get back into the game.
“We didn’t play as well as last week, but again it shows the character of the squad to keep going and get another goal in injury time,” said Tommy Smith, who credited his manager for the Rapids’ “never-say-die attitude.”
Colorado will have a short rest before their Tuesday road match against the L.A. Galaxy, who followed up their August 5 defeat to the Rapids with a disappointing 2-2 home draw against Minnesota United.
Image Credit: Colorado Rapids