Match Report: Portland Timbers 0-1 Colorado Rapids
A point was all they required but the Colorado Rapids made sure of a place in the MLS Playoffs by snatching all three in a rare victory at Portland Timbers on Wednesday night, writes Richard Fleming.
Head coach, Robin Fraser, said: "I'm really excited for the club and really excited for the players.
"We feel like we're making strides. We're not where we want to be yet, but we're certainly making strides. I think getting to the playoffs is a bit of validation."
Kellyn Acosta came off the bench for his first appearance since September 23 to tuck away the game’s only goal seven minutes from the end of a contest which controversy threatened to overshadow.
Referee Joe Dickerson pointed to the spot for what appeared a clear handball against Timbers defender Bill Tuiloma 15 minutes in, only to be called to the video review monitor to subsequently reverse his earlier decision. A head-scratcher, as Tuiloma certainly appeared to make his body unnaturally bigger. (The Rapids remain the only side in MLS yet to be awarded a penalty this season).
This came during a promising spell from the visitors, who had managed just one win in 10 previous visits to Portland, and that was in the Timbers’ first season in MLS, 2011.
Andre Shinyashiki blazed a first-time volley over the bar, while Nicolas Benezet – busy once again – powered his header wide of the post with goalkeeper Steve Clark rooted to the spot.
The Timbers started with key players Yimmi Chara and Diego Valeri on the bench. Their introduction in the second half gave the home side an expected boost, with the pair generating greater energy and direction for a team which was top of the standings at the start of play and the leading scorers in MLS.
A second moment of controversy came when Diego Chara, who had already been booked, felled Cole Bassett with a cynical challenge. Referee Dickerson took the lenient approach, and Chara Snr remained on the field.
All of that mattered little as Acosta latched onto a square pass from the unselfish Diego Rubio, took a touch, dropped his shoulder, and tucked the ball into the top right-hand corner for the winner.
Acosta said: "You look at the last two games, they were definitely positive for all of us. We beat arguably the two best teams in the league. You see the work that we've put in behind the scenes and it's been showing.
"We've been rewarding ourselves and that's the best feeling that we have for us. We're just happy to give something back to the fans.
"Not only have we won the Rocky Mountain Cup this year, we're also playoff bound with everything going on. It's a happy moment for all the parties."
There were still some late jitters, with substitute Dairon Asprilla toe-poking a shot against the outside of the post from six yards in stoppage time of stoppage time.
Fraser added: “I thought in the second half some fatigue set in and Portland really started to put some pressure on us. They're a good team. They have good players, and once Diego Valeri comes on, anything's possible.
“I thought we were tested once again and it was a difficult test for us, but at the end of the day, we felt like we did sufficiently well enough. And I do think that we're continuing to build on the foundation of what it is that we want to do."
The Rapids conclude their regular season on Sunday when they travel to Houston to face the Dynamo. Coverage on Altitude and AltitudeNOW is from 4.30pm.
Portland Timbers: Steve Clark; Pablo Bonilla (Larrys Mabiala 88’), Bill Tuiloma, Dario Zuparic, Marco Farfan (Jorge Villafaña 68’); Andy Polo (Dairon Asprilla 88’), Diego Chara, Cristhian Paredes, Andres Flores (Yimmi Chara HT); Eryk Williamson (Diego Valeri 55’), Felipe Mora.
Subs not used: Aljaz Ivacic, Marvin Loria, Renzo Zambrano, Tomas Conechny.
Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough; Keegan Rosenberry, Lalas Abubakar, Danny Wilson, Sam Vines; Cole Bassett (Kellyn Acosta 58’), Jack Price, Younes Namli (Drew Moor 85’); Andre Shinyashiki (Nicolas Mezquida 74’), Diego Rubio, Nicolas Benezet (Jonathan Lewis 58’).
Subs not used: Clint Irwin, Jeremy Kelly, Auston Trusty, Steven Beitashour, Braian Galvan.