Mile High Sports

Jackson shines, but Rapids fall to New England Revolution in MLS opener

Mar 10, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Niki Jackson (12) celebrates after scoring against the New England Revolution during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids opened their 2018 season in heartbreaking fashion, losing to the New England Revolution 2-1 in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Rapids, who fielded eight new players in their starting 11, faced off against a Revolution team that was unbeaten in their last eight home games last season. It was their longest unbeaten streak at home in 2017.

The Revolution opened the scoring in the 48th minute when midfielder Cristian Penilla attacked the left flank and cut in, losing his defender and squaring the ball to Diego Fagundez. Fagundez struck a low-driven shot that nutmegged Rapids keeper Tim Howard and gave New England a 1-0 lead.

In the 54th minute, the Rapids responded, creating a golden chance to equalize six minutes later. Jack Price stepped to the penalty spot after Jalil Anibaba took down Jack McBean in the box. Price drove the ball into the top left corner, but Revolution keeper Matt Turner dove to his right to make the save and Price skied the rebound over the crossbar:

In the 65th minute, Niki Jackson, a 22-year-old striker from Grand Canyon University, came on for McBean. In the 66th minute, Jackson made history. Jack Price displayed a lovely piece of skill, flicking the ball over the head of Revolution midfielder Wilfried Zahibo and into the area of Rapids striker Dominique Badji, who headed a pass to Johan Blomberg towards the right side of the pitch. Blomberg attacked the space and sent in a ball over the top of the defense to Jackson, who headed it into the bottom left corner with his first MLS touch of his career. In just one minute and one touch, Niki Jackson scored on his professional debut, tying the game at 1-1.

Jackson was was signed in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft to a one-year contract on February 20. Per Elias Sports Bureau, he became the third player in league history to score within one minute of coming onto the field in a MLS debut.

Unfortunately, the Revolution were able to capitalize on the last kick of the game. In the 93rd minute, the Rapids conceded a free kick on the edge of their own 18 yard box. Andrew Farrell, Fagundez and Chris Tierney surrounded the free kick from all angles, devising their set-piece tactics. Tierney ended up taking the free kick, curling it over the wall towards the top right corner. His shot deflected off Badji and past Howard for the go-ahead goal in stoppage time:

The road loss was consistent with the Rapids’ performances on the road last season. Colorado scored just seven goals on the road in 2017, tied for the second-fewest in an MLS season since 2010. Badji had a combined 15 goals and assists last season for the Rapids. No other player had more than nine.

Following the loss, Rapids manager Anthony Hudson remained positive after their performance in Foxborough.

“Last year, [the Revolution] had a great home record,” Hudson said. “For us to get back in the game in difficult conditions and score a great goal, play well; there was a lot to build on. We created more chances than the opposition, and coming away from home, that’s a good thing. I was proud of the players.”

The Rapids created five shots on target to New England’s two. Three of Colorado’s chances came in the second half, including Jackson’s debut goal.

“It’s a great moment for him,” Hudson explained. “We are incredibly proud of him. He’s come in from preseason, out of nowhere, and he’s impressed all of us. He’s got a huge amount of energy, he’s going to be a good player. He’s a young kid, he’s got a lot of development in him, but he did well today.”

Colorado look to gain their first points of the season in their home opener against Sporting Kansas City, a Western Conference contender. The Rapids play Sporting KC on March 24  in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 7:00pm.