DENVER, Colo. – It was an MLS Next Pro version of the Rocky Mountain Cup on Sunday night. Colorado Rapids 2 hosted Real Monarchs at the University of Denver. Rapids 2 started a virtual first team, wanting to build fitness with several weeks off ahead of the MLS match at New York City FC. Monarchs made six changes to the starting lineup from the team that lost 4-0 to Vancouver.
Rapids first team defeats Real Monarchs, gets Rapids 2 second ever win
The home side dominated the first half. It was a typical Rapids first team match in many ways. They had plenty of the ball and played out of the back. They got the ball into good areas. Their shot creation either came from Michael Barrios on the ball or set pieces. Keegen Rosenberry and Nicolas Mezquida had the best looks before the goal.
Just before halftime, Mezquida won a penalty, getting fouled by Gavin Beavers. Gyasi Zardes took the PK well, sending Beavers the wrong way. The teams made a combined six substitutions at halftime.
Substitute Diego Rubio appeared to make it 2-0 four minutes into the second half. Barrios squared the ball to him in space in transition for a tap in but the flag went up.
Jonathan Lewis would score on a very similar play in the 54th minute and it counted. Barrios ran onto a through ball, rounding a defender in the process. He was fouled but referee Adam Rice ruled advantage as Barrios fought off the challenge and passed to Lewis who scored into an open net.
Rapids 2 continued to get chances but could not finish. Beavers made several big saves and the center backs continued to struggle to get shots off corners on goal. Homegrown 14-year-old striker Axel Kei scored in the 68th minute to make it 2-1, hitting the bottom corner from a sharp angle. It was Real’s first shot attempt of the game.
Rubio and Max put the game to bed in the 82nd minute. Max made a good run down the right and played the ball to Rubio who was open at the back post. The finish was easy, making it 3-1. The final minutes were a shooting gallery for the home side, but no more goals were scored.
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Three Key Takeaways:
First team vs. second team: It’s hard to take this game seriously and evaluate the performance. Every player who saw minutes for Rapids 2 is a first team player. This was a first team vs. second string game at best. The score line reflects Colorado’s struggles with the final product, offsides calls, and some good saves. It was a typical Rapids performance in that regard.
Important goals for all four players: Each goal was important for the individuals who scored. Zardes and Lewis are both trying to get going with the first team. These goals should help their confidence as MLS resumes play. Rubio has been effective all year. His 45 minutes in the second half show he hasn’t slowed down during the international break. For Kei, it was his first professional goal for the RSL organization. The goal was ultimately in a loss, but it was a moment of history for the teenager.
Not much rivalry energy: This game didn’t have much Rocky Mountain Cup energy. Maybe it was the first team players understanding the assignment. Maybe it was the fact that it was an MLS Next Pro game. Monarchs played conservatively and respected the opponent. No fouls got any shenanigans going. The only bit of rivalry was a Real fan on the north side of the stadium yelling banter and trying to encourage and coach the Monarchs players.
Photo Credit: Matt Pollard, Last Word on Soccer.
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