By Brian Jennings

If you missed the 2019 Colorado Rapids season opener, you were probably warm and toasty, and shame on you if you were a local.  Shivering in the stands at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Saturday night, and you were part of another SnowClassico for sure, getting to see an epic game with a cool ending for a certain rookie.

Colorado Head Coach Anthony Hudson was happy with the way Colorado handled much of the first half, despite the rough night by the yellow team once again.  With the conditions worsening, however, he was adamant that the Rapids keep the pressure on Portland to get back into a match that saw them go down to 10-men with a red card to defender Axel Sjoberg after just 27 minutes.

That forced Hudson’s hand a bit as defender Danny Wilson, and soon Jack Price, were brought in as Colorado shifted its focus from one of attacking to shoreing up from midfield backwards and attacking from there, according to Price.  “We coped well with a man down, we still had good possession, and at times creating some good chances. It’s the first game of the season so everyone’s fit, flying, that was never going to be an issue even being a man down.”

As far as coming into a deep freeze so suddenly, Jack admitted to The Voice of C38, “It’s tough to come in like that when you haven’t even properly warmed-up.  My legs were still a bit stiff sitting on that bench. I was hoping to get an early touch to get a bit settled. That’s the way we were dealt today and we showed that fighting spirit, and obviously we’ve got more quality this year so that showed through.”

“They were sort of playing the conditions, they were putting the ball in the box and driving it across, and in these conditions there are going to be mistakes,” observed Hudson on Portland’s tendencies.  “At the end of the first half, I think we had opportunities to put the ball in the box. There were situations where I think we could’ve put them under more pressure.”

Colorado’s Benny Feilhaber did just that as the Rapids rushed the box and finished with Benny hitting his first goal for the Rapids in minute 46.  After that, it was a matter of Hudson tweaking the personnel and the home side going for broke. “Halftime was just about making sure we didn’t go chasing the game, we didn’t stretch ourselves out of possession, and we wanted to find a way to change the system and go with two 6’s,” explained Coach.  “Down to 10 men with one striker it’s very difficult to play our system and ask Kei to do a lot, so we changed it to two 6’s and have Nico (Mezquida) and Kellyn (Acosta) to join in.”

A last ditch effort came on in the form of rookie Andre Shinyashiki to try and pull back the equalizer one more time following an unlucky own-goal deflected off defender Deklan Wynne.  “We had some periods of good possession, and obviously the goal hurts us and the conditions get worse again,” Hudson explained. “At the end we asked Andre to come on and be a little bit braver, press a little bit higher, Nico was showing a lot of aggression and really taking the game to Portland.”    

“As soon as he come on,” Price explained, “we went to two up top with Kei (Kamara), so it was more a case of getting it more under control in the middle, if there was a chance put it in behind them, because they didn’t look like they really wanted to defend or really wanted to be here.”

The local product of Denver University was immediately involved in the action, just missing a break on a close offsides call, but eventually making the most of his Rapids debut.  “We were trying to expose them in behind because it’s harder to deal with long balls. That’s what the gaffer told me, just get in behind them as much I can, but because of my runs, because of Kei’s runs it opened up space in the middle and that’s how we created our third goal.”  Pandemoneum ensued in the snow-covered corner at the dying moments and Shinyashiki was mobbed by his teammates after notching his first MLS goal to rescue the frigid point and start off 2019 with a bang.