Rapids Defeat LA Galaxy as Sam Nicholson Scores in Final Minutes

Written by: Paul Fritz

Denver, CO – Saturday night’s matchup turned out to be a thriller as the Colorado Rapids eked out a victory against the 3rd ranked LA Galaxy. With only so many games left in the MLS season, the Rapids know that the time is now to sift away all the previous issues and get back to playing aggressive, attacking soccer.

Despite ending the 1st half trailing 1-0, Colorado showed a considerable improvement in poise and control on the ball. The Rapids converted 2 shots on goal on 6 attempts while maintaining 65% total possession. The Rapids are notorious for playing better at home and one aspect of that is their ability to apply pressure and create multiple early chances. Forward Sam Nicholson looked eager to score early with two shots on goal coming in the first ten minutes. From there, the Galaxy were on their back feet to make sure the Rapids couldn’t put together any more dangerous shots on goal.

They were largely successful in that the Rapids could only create real chances through crossing into the middle. LA’s strategy further benefited them on the counter attack. In the 33rd minute, Galaxy Forward Romain Alessandrini caught a deflection and had enough space to drive a short shot passed Tim Howard, giving LA the 1-0 lead. The Rapids continued to press and almost pulled off the equalizer from yet another shot from Nicholson, which was saved in the bottom right corner.

The Rapids have struggled this season in terms of maintaining their momentum going into the 2nd half. Often Colorado will find a difficult time recalibrating their offensive rhythm but tonight turned out to be just the opposite. It only took 5 minutes into the 2nd half before Kellyn Acosta could find space outside the box, drilling a shot from his left foot that keeper David Bingham had no chance to reach.

Regarding Colorado’s effort to keep control of the game, midfielder Nicholson said, “We were being more patient with the ball. We kept more possession than we normally do and games in the past we have gone a little bit longer trying to get the ball in control. Tonight we’ve done that as a first resort rather than a last resort.”

For the remainder of the game, the Galaxy defense consistently crowded the box with five to six players to prevent any Rapid’s pressure from breaking through. To the frustration of the Colorado faithful, each offensive possession in the last 10 minutes ended in either an offsides call or a shot wide off the target. LA Galaxy are typically an offensive minded team and the only to rationalize their defensive strategy tonight was A: the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and/or B: to maintain their position as 3rd in the Western Conference.

Just when it looked like this match would end in a draw, the Rapids made one last effort in attack in the final minutes. Edgar Castillo used his speed and dribbling skill to make his way to the left wing where he grounded a pass across the middle to find a wide open Nicholson. Nicholson then executed a wonderful shot into the bottom right corner.

The overall effort is a high-point in Colorado’s season and an encouraged Head Coach in Anthony Hudson will look to maintain the team’s confidence. “A thing we’ve had all season that we saw tonight is having to create our own belief. When we actually back ourselves and play positive and aggressive and most importantly as a team, when we’re like that – we give ourselves belief and that’s what we got tonight. We started the game very well, we controlled the game and then we shot ourselves in the foot with the goal. Overall, we just need more belief, that’s a big part of it,” said Hudson.

The Colorado Rapids will pick it right back up next Saturday as they host the San Jose Quakes, a team they simply cannot overlook in their hopes for a playoff spot. The LA Galaxy will head back home for their next match against Minnesota United.

Photo credited to John Adami / The SkyBoat

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