Alan Gordon Strikes Late to Lift Colorado Over Portland by Chris Brown
Colorado Rapids hosted Western Conference rival Portland Timbers in Denver on Saturday evening.
Tim Howard returned to the starting line-up for the Rapids while Darlington Nagbe returned for the Timbers after both players missed time with their MLS clubs, on duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Rapids Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni lost defender Bobby Burling to a sprained foot in the Rapids last match, a Tuesday night U.S. Open Cup win against Oklahoma City Energy, but gained back two defenders in Axel Sjoberg and Kortne Ford and both players combined to form the Colorado center-back pairing on the evening. Shkezen Gashi whe winger continues to deal with a hamstring injury.
The big surprise concerning the Rapids lineup was that Jared Watts started in the Colorado midfield. Watts started against Oklahoma Tuesday night in the Rapid midfield but looked poor, drifting into defense where he was clearly more comfortable, but Mastroeni was happy to continue the midfield experiment against Portland.
Porter Timbers are without Liam Ridgewell who is missing with a quad injury but Caleb Porter was able to select Roy Miller in his starting eleven although the defender was questionable coming into the match with a foot sprain.
Portland started brighter than Colorado with their 4-5-1 outnumbering the Rapids in midfield.
Sloppy passing between the Portland backline gifted a golden opportunity to Colorado when a square pass found Dominique Badji alone at the top of the Timbers box. Badji took too long to wind up his shot and his attempt was blocked by a recovering Portland defender but a more composed striker would have buried the gifted shot, or at least made the goalkeeper work. The block immediately found its way to Kevin Doyle who crossed back in to Badji but given a second chance the striker nodded the cross straight into the turf gifting Jake Gleeson an easy save.
In the 11th minute Sebastian Blanco found a patch of space just outside the Colorado box and drove a shot toward the bottom right corner of Tim Howard’s goal, but the shot narrowly missed the goal.
Colorado’s midfield four were not only out numbered by Portland’s five, but Portland’s midfield possession became dominant and allowed their wing backs to join into the attack further exacerbating the Rapids troubles and allowing Portland to maintain a constant threat in the Colorado half throughout the opening half.
Portland found a breakthrough in the 18th minute following a spell of lovely build up play that saw Sebastian Blanco collect a Diego Valeri pass and dribble into the Colorado box from the left wing and absolutely break Michael Azira’s ankles in the box with a clever cut to his right and Blanco used the space he created to set himself and curl a ball around the frozen form of Tim Howard into the side netting to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
Just before halftime Kevin Doyle rose to meet a Mohammed Saeid cross at the near post and had no one marking him, but was unable to steer his header on goal, hitting the outside of the side netting and squandering a great chance to level the match. Saeid and Doyle were beginning to combine well though, an encouraging sign for a Colorado side that needed to find a way into the match.
Portland lead 1-0 at halftime.
After the restart Portland again looked the more dangerous side and in the 49th minute Fernando Adi spooned a wide open shot over Tim Howards bar, after the forward found separation at the 6 yard box. The ball appeared to take a bobble just as Adi struck it, but the striker will cringe watching replays.
Colorado shocked Portland in the 51st minute when, against the run of play, Kevin Doyle played an immaculate through ball looking for the speedy run of Dominique Badji down the left wing. Badji gathered the ball just as he reached the Timbers penalty area and lifted his head to see Jake Gleeson sprinting off his line. The forward did well to keep his composure and chipped the ball over the on rushing Gleeson. For Rapids supporters the shot took forever to travel and land but when it did it was in the back of the Timbers goal and though Colorado had been thoroughly outplayed to that point, they found a way to level the match.
Dillon Serna came on for Jared Watts in the 52nd minute and the Jared Watts in midfield experiment didn’t appear to be a roaring success, though his help in defending was part of the reason Portland hadn’t found a second goal in the match.
Colorado seemed to be a team reborn after the goal and suddenly were applying all the pressure while Portland seemed shell-shocked.
In the 59th minute Colorado nearly went in front when Marlon Hairston sent in a lovely cross from the right wing and picked out Kevin Doyle at the near post. Doyle rose well and sent a glancing header across Gleeson’s goal, but the Portland keeper did well to jump and get a meaty palm on the shot, pushing it wide out of play.
Around that time Portland began to look tired on the pitch. The movement in midfield was constant in the first half but players weren’t working as hard for each other as the second half wore on. Altitude is always a factor in Denver, especially for the away team, and Portland may have spent too much energy trying to bury the match in the first half.
Dillon Serna’s addition to the match seemed to galvanize the Rapid attack and Serna did well to create passing lanes with his movement, causing havoc in the area between Portland’s midfield and backline.
Alan Gordon came on for Josh Gatt in the 80th minute, with Colorado hoping the veteran would do what he’d done so many times over his career; grab a lastminute game-winner.
In the 89th minute Gordon did just that.
Following a Rapid throw in Mohammed Saeid curled in a left footed cross from the right wing and found the head of Gordon who rose and sent a looping header in on goal. Gleeson jumped to save it but jumped too late and the ball found it’s way into the back of the goal, just past Gleeson’s outstretched hand, giving the Rapids their first lead of the night with just a minute left in regular time.
After four minutes of stoppage time the referee blew the whistle giving Colorado their fifth successive home win and third straight come from behind victory.
The win moves Colorado off the foot of the Western Conference table into 10th place, just ahead of last place Minnesota, and just 4 points behind the Whitecaps and Earthquakes who hold the two final Western Conference playoff spots with 20 points.
After the match Pablo Mastroeni talked about Mohammed Saeid’s recent performances and how a halftime adjustment in the midfielders position changed the match. “I think in the last couple of games that Mo’s come in and we’ve put him in the middle of the field, especially when the tempo slows down and the angriness is out of the game, he does a fantastic job of being the conductor in the middle of the field and really connecting passes, slowing down the game so that we can catch our breath with the ball a little bit and then finding the right moment to play forward and change the pace a little bit. And start the attack from deeper positions.
When asked about his second straight game winning header in MLS play Alan Gordon smiled before saying “It’s kind of my M.O. right? I’ve got to make the most of my minutes and I’ve been fortunate enough to score late goals. It’s great, great for the team.”