Colorado Rapids take down top-of-the-table LAFC behind penalty kick goals from Gyasi Zardes, Diego Rubio

COMMERCE CITY — No matter how tired they might have been, the Colorado Rapids didn’t show it Saturday afternoon against top-of-the-table LAFC.

What a difference 48 hours can make.

Coming off a tight turnaround late this week, the Rapids got goals from Gyasi Zardes and Diego Rubio and the back end made it hold up in an impressive 2-0 win at sun-drenched Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

It was a winding journey for Colorado to get there.

Following an Open Cup game Thursday afternoon in the Twin Cities that had been postponed an extra day by weather, the Rapids’ flight back was also delayed, keeping them in Minnesota until Friday morning. The team finally arrived back in Denver at 10:30 a.m. only to bus directly to a usual Friday routine of two video sessions, tactics and a training session. Despite the circumstances leading up to Saturday’s match, the Rapids (4-4-3, 15 points) rose to the occasion before 15,022 supporters at DSGP.

“I know I’m harping on this a lot, but this is unprecedented for me. To have to play Thursday afternoon and then Saturday afternoon, it’s unprecedented. Especially given the circumstances,” said Rapids coach Robin Fraser, who admitted to taking an afternoon nap Friday after the club’s whirlwind three days.

“… To think that you’re going home and you’re not, to think that you’re going to finish a game and then you’re not, and it keeps dragging on, emotionally, it’s a real drain.

“We need to recognize not just how we played, but how we approach the game. We continue to approach the game like this, it definitely can be a spring board game.”

Colorado got on the front foot early. In the 16th minute, the Rapids were awarded a penalty kick after Sebastien Ibeagha caught Rubio with an elbow to the head as he attempted to play a free kick from Bryan Acosta in the box.

After checking on Rubio for a head injury, Zardes stepped up and scored his first goal as a Burgundy Boy. LAFC goalkeeper John McCarthy got a paw to it, but he was unable to get enough of the ball and the Rapids took a 1-0 lead.

The Rapids absorbed pressure from LAFC (7-2-2, 22 points) but didn’t break. It paid off again in the form of a second penalty kick.

In the 24th minute, Jonathan Lewis received a pass in the box but it got away from him. However, Cristian Arango went hard into the back of Lewis and referee Ted Unkel pointed to the penalty spot once again. Colorado had three penalties in all of 2021 and Saturday’s were the first given to them since Cole Bassett converted a penalty kick on Oct. 10, 2021, in a 3-1 win at Minnesota United.

Rubio had his penalty saved, but the play went to VAR and it was ruled McCarthy came off his line early, giving Rubio a shot at redemption. He buried the second shot to put Colorado up 2-0. It was his sixth goal of the season, which tied him for second overall in the MLS Golden Boot race.

In the second half, LAFC had a few good chances but was unable to convert.

In his first game back at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Kellyn Acosta had a quiet afternoon with 51 touches, although he was moved outside due to Ryan Hollingshead’s first-half injury.

For Auston Trusty, voted the man of the match, he said defending a talented team like LAFC was not just a credit to the back line, but the entire team.

“It feels good to see everybody lock in and knowing their roles,” Trusty said. “We play a certain way with who we wanna mark, who not to (give) time on the ball and it’s just good to see all the chemistry and the fight from everybody to get to their spots.”

In the 72nd minute team captain Jack Price subbed on and took the armband back from William Yarbrough while receiving a rousing ovation. He had missed the last four games across all competitions with a hamstring injury.

Colorado had numerous chances to put the game to bed but was unable to do so. Still, it was Yarbrough’s fifth clean sheet of 2022, and helped extend the home unbeaten streak to 22 regular-season games.

The Rapids will continue a busy stretch with a mid-week game 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park.

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