Match Report: Houston Dynamo 1-2 Colorado Rapids
A stoppage-time goal from Diego Rubio sent the Colorado Rapids flying into the MLS postseason with a third win in a row as they defeated Houston Dynamo 2-1 on Sunday to land a trip to Minnesota United in the first round of the playoffs, writes Richard Fleming.
Robin Fraser made six changes to the side which won in Portland four days earlier, with Jeremy Kelly and Nicolas Mezquida handed only their second starts of the season.
Houston made five changes to the team which lost 3-0 at FC Dallas in their previous encounter, and it was the Dynamo which appeared the more threatening in a rather tepid opening 45 minutes.
Fraser made changes at halftime, switching out Mezquida for Younes Namli, and Kellyn Acosta for Jack Price. It took 16 minutes for Namli to find the net, reacting well after goalkeeper Marko Maric blocked Andre Shinyashiki’s initial shot, for only his second goal in MLS.
That brought a bite from the home side. Niko Hansen, on in the first half for the injured dangerman Darwin Quintero, put wide when through on goal. Moments later, Mauro Manotas finished first time from an Adam Lundkvist cross, but the provider was adjudged offside and the Rapids’ lead remained.
Manotas would get his goal, eight minutes after Namli’s opener. The slightest of deflections took his shot through the legs of William Yarbrough for parity.
Houston it was who pushed, desperately seeking a happy ending to their sorry season, but the Rapids and Rubio would have the last word. With numbers committed forward, the Dynamo were caught on the break. Cole Bassett released Rubio, who timed his run to remain onside. He ran half the length of the field and beat Maric at his far post with almost the last kick of the game.
Lewis admitted: "It was a grinding performance. I wouldn't say it was the prettiest, for sure. In the first half, we had the ball a lot, but we were moving it a little too slow and we didn't break it down quick enough.
In the second half, I thought they came out with a lot more fire but we defended really well and we were able to stay compact, and Diego (Rubio) obviously scoring a beautiful winning goal.”
The win, plus results elsewhere, meant the Rapids finished fifth in the Western Conference standings, which were determined on points per game. They will now travel to Minnesota United in the first round of the playoffs. The Loons needed a last-gasp own goal from Lalas Abubakar to overcome the Rapids 2-1 as recently as October 28.
Lewis added: “We're playing against Minnesota now for the first round. We know what they're like, they know what we're like. We stormed into the playoffs, as Robin would have said. We now set a tone and we have to keep that level of energy.
“And now, like I said, I don't think we played our best today, but I think it goes to show why we're a dangerous team, because we sat and absorbed some pressure, especially in the second half, and we were able to get two counter-attacking goals which were two good team goals."
Minnesota will again be without former Rapids striker, Kei Kamara, who has emerged from international retirement to answer his country’s call for upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Nigeria. He missed the previous meeting with the Rapids due to a 'gentlemen's agreement' as part of his September trade.
Houston Dynamo: Marko Maric; Zarek Valentin, Victor Cabrera (Alejandro Fuenmayor 65’), Maynor Figueroa, Adam Lundkvist; Ariel Lassiter (Sam Junqua 85’), Darwin Ceren, Matias Vera (Boniek Garcia 65’), Memo Rodriguez (Marcelo Palomino 85’); Darwin Quintero (Niko Hansen 39’), Mauro Manotas.
Subs not used: Cody Cropper, Tomas Martinez, Wilfried Zahibo, Christian Ramirez.
Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough; Jeremy Kelly (Keegan Rosenberry 81’), Lalas Abubakar, Auston Trusty, Sam Vines; Nicolas Mezquida (Younes Namli HT), Kellyn Acosta (Jack Price HT), Cole Bassett; Braian Galvan (Nicolas Benezet 65’), Andre Shinyashiki, Jonathan Lewis (Diego Rubio 64’).
Subs not used: Clint Irwin, Drew Moor, Danny Wilson, Steven Beitashour.