COMMERCE CITY — In another crunch-time situation this season, the Colorado Rapids found an answer.
While it certainly wasn’t the Rapids’ prettiest performance of the season, and the post-game responses referenced it. But at this late stage, three points are all that counts.
Keegan Rosenberry’s screamer from 22 yards out, his second goal of 2022, proved to be the difference as the Rapids took down the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Wednesday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“San Jose did a lot of things well but I don’t think we did a good job with the ball early on and it pretty much became a slugfest,” Rapids head coach Robin Fraser said. “At the end of the day, I give our guys a lot of credit for continuing to fight and really finding two very well-struck goals. … We needed real more points than style points.”
Colorado (10-9-12, 39 points) kept its playoff hopes alive for another night as the Rapids are four points off of seventh place and one place from eighth after results elsewhere went their way. Real Salt Lake currently holds seventh place on 43 points. With the win, Colorado also officially eliminated the Earthquakes from MLS playoff contention.
Diego Rubio opened up the scoring in the 21st minute with a brilliant goal. On the left flank, Jonathan Lewis cut in and attempted a shot from the corner of the box, but it deflected off of an Earthquakes player and came out to Rubio. After a few bounces, he struck a first-time shot that found the bottom corner of the net.
With the goal, it was his 14th goal of the season and comes within two of tying the single-season goal record. However, in the process, he was also able to tie a record dating back 20 seasons, as he now has 21 goal contributions on the season, and ties John Spencer and Mark Chung, which were set in the 2001 and 2002 seasons, respectively.
Colorado settled in to a sturdy defensive shape and while it worked for 15 minutes, the Rapids were unable to see out the halftime lead.
In the 35th minute, San Jose equalized brilliantly on a set piece. Cristian Espinoza whipped in a corner kick from the left-hand side and Nathan made a darting run across the penalty box and headed the attempt downwards past Yarbrough and a Rapids’ defender on the goal line.
In the second half, both teams attempted to counterattack as the playoffs were still on the cards before the night began. With his final action of the game, Felipe Gutíerrez nearly got on the end of a cross from Lewis as his shot sailed just wide. He was replaced by Max. Earlier in the half, captain Jack Price subbed on for Bryan Acosta to another strong ovation from the DSGP crowd.
In the 69th minute, the Earthquakes had their best chance of the night as they played good one-touch soccer and a low cross fell to Cade Cowell in the center of the box but his shot clanked the crossbar and went over.
Then, when Colorado had a sustained spell of possession starting at the 75th minute, the Rapids were patient but kept at the attack with probing passes.
In the 77th minute, Rosenberry hit what might be considered the goal of the season. He found himself with a pocket of space and Max found the former Georgetown Hoya, who struck a screamer from 22 yards that few goalkeepers would be able to save, as it fell into the top corner. Max, the Brazilian rookie recorded his first goal contribution with an assist since he scored back in February’s CONCACAF Champions League.
Even though the rookie got the assist, it was the veterans who helped finish the game off, something Rosenberry feels will be crucial in the last three games.
“I think when a lot of times you see when good players play together they compliment each other,” Rosenberry said. “They know how to move, react and co-exist. … It will be huge for us.”
The Rapids will travel to the West Coast to take on eighth-place LA Galaxy at 8 p.m. Saturday night at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.