Rapids Take National Stage for First-Ever Thanksgiving Day Audi MLS Cup Playoff Game
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. â After completing the best regular season in the club's 26-year history, the No. 1 seed Colorado Rapids will host No. 4 Portland Timbers in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal, which will be nationally televised on FOX and FOX Deportes at 2:30 PM on Thanksgiving Day.
"You have to respect the opponent," Rapids head coach Robin Fraser said ahead of Thursday's match. "You're very conscious of what they're good at. Their counterattack is as good as any in the league. [Sebastián] Blanco is a guy who is a big part of that. As I said, now that we know and we get to focus on the team that we have, we certainly start to look at the things that they do well and how do we negate that and how can we potentially exploit what we think are their vulnerabilities."
This is the first MLS match ever to be played on Thanksgiving Day. The Rapids secured first place win the Western Conference for the first time in the club history on Decision Day in thrilling fashion, thrashing LAFC 5-2 in the regular season finale to leapfrog Seattle Sounders FC and Sporting KC for the top spot in the West.
In addition to a first-round bye, the Rapids also clinched a berth in the 2022 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League. Colorado will learn its Round of 16 opponent on December 15.
The Rapids have qualified for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs in each of Fraser's two full seasons as head coach and have compiled the second-most points per game (1.76) since his first match in charge. Fraser was named a finalist for Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year after leading Colorado to 61 points and first place in the Western Conference, the club's best finish ever. The Rapids' 17 wins are the most for the club in a single season since 1999, which was prior to the introduction of draws in MLS.
Colorado earned four points from two matches against Portland during the 2021 regular season. Jonathan Lewis and Michael Barrios scored as the Rapids picked up a point in a 2-2 draw in Oregon on September 15. The Rapids won the only previous meeting at DICK'S Sporting Goods Park, 2-0, with goals from Dominique Badji and Diego Rubio to secure a playoff berth on October 23. Colorado has never faced Portland in the postseason.
In his first season with the Rapids, Barrios led the team with eight goals and added five assists. Lewis, in his third season with the club, scored a career high seven goals, including two in the Decision Day victory over LAFC, while adding two assists.
Goalkeeper William Yarbrough finished the season fourth in MLS with 107 saves, second with a 76.81 save percentage (min. 10 GP) and tied for the league lead with 13 clean sheets-the only goalkeeper in MLS to finish in the top five in all three categories.
For a third consecutive season, the Rapids were dominant on restarts. Led by captain Jack Price, Colorado scored 14 set piece goals, tied for the most in MLS, while allowing just four, a league low. Price led the league with eight assists on restarts; he finished tied for fourth in MLS with 12 assists and was named Team MVP for a fourth consecutive season. Colorado leads MLS with 42 goals on set pieces since 2019.
This is Colorado's first home Audi MLS Cup Playoff match since the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Rapids won MLS Cup in 2010, with assistant and goalkeeper coach Chris Sharpe and defender Drew Moor the only members of that team still with the club.
Portland advanced to the Western Conference Semifinal after defeating Minnesota United FC, 3-1, in Round One of the playoffs on Sunday at Providence Park. After falling behind early, the Timbers stormed back with a goal from Larrys Mabiala and two from Blanco.
To celebrate hosting their match on Thanksgiving, the Rapids will host an epic Friendsgiving Tailgate starting at 10 AM, featuring food trucks, a live DJ, tailgate games and free parking, all while the Lions-Bears NFL game is showing on a 13-foot screen. The Rapids, KSE Charities and their partners have committed to donating over half a million meals to the Food Bank of Colorado, and all fans have to do is show up to the match to contribute. For every fan in attendance, over 30 meals will be donated to the local nonprofit.
News & Notes
Colorado finished with a +17 goal differential (31-14) at home, the highest in the Western Conference and the second-best in MLS. The Rapids' 14 goals conceded at home were tied for the fewest in the West.
If he scores or assists on Thursday, Cole Bassett will become the youngest player in club history to do so in an MLS Cup Playoff match (20 years, 120 days). Bassett became the youngest player in club history to play in, start and play a full 90 minutes in a playoff game in 2020 at 19 years, 117 days old.
Current head coach and former Rapids defender Robin Fraser is the oldest player in club history to assist in a playoff match, doing so at 35 years, 285 days old in 2002.
The Rapids are unbeaten in their last five against Portland, including wins in two of the last three meetings.
Andre Shinyashiki scored his first career MLS goal against Portland in #SnowClasico3 on March 2, 2019, a stoppage-time equalizer in the coldest match in MLS history.
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