Rapids win 2017 opener behind strong defense, Badji’s header

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The Colorado Rapids defeated the New England Revolution 1-0 in the 2017 Home Opener at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday afternoon. Dominique Badji’s second-half tally proved to be the difference as the Rapids extended their regular season unbeaten streak to 18 matches.

The Rapids grabbed momentum right from the start with Kevin Doyle barely missing a streaking Marlon Hairston at the far post. A few minutes later, Sam Cronin would send a dangerous cross into the box that sailed just wide of the goal.

On the other end, Kei Kamara had the best chance of the first half for the visitors. A timely placed ball into the box put Kamara in behind Colorado’s defense. His shot across goal forced goalkeeper Zac MacMath to make a nifty one-handed save.

Colorado quickly responded with their most dangerous opportunity at the 20th minute mark. Doyle’s low shot would be denied by Cody Cropper after getting a through ball in between New England’s center backs. Half-chances ensued at both goals but the game remained scoreless going into the half.

It would take the Rapids just seven minutes after the restart to find the back of the net for the first goal of 2017. Doyle redirected a Dillon Powers free-kick but his attempt would ricochet off the far post. After a scramble inside the six-yard box, Dominique Badji’s header sent the Rapids faithful into a frenzy.

“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet but at the end of the day the ‘W’ is what’s most important,” Badji said postgame. “We really want to make this place like we did last year. It’s a good way to start the season and we plan to continue to get more wins at home.”

A flurry of substitutions were made by both sides in the final thirty minutes, including the return of midfielder Dillon Serna, who had been sidelined since June 29 of last year after suffering a season-ending knee injury at FC Dallas during a U.S. Open Cup match.

“I’m so excited for him because he’s worked so hard since his injury,” Badji said about Serna’s return. “It was unfortunate but he didn’t look down. He didn’t look down, he kept working and everyone was with him throughout the whole process. It was nice for him to make a comeback and it’s nice to see him get some minutes. We look forward to have him contribute the rest of the season.”

The Revs pushed for the equalizer but were unable to break down a strong backline led by 2015 Defender of the Year finalist Axel Sjöberg.

“I’d like to see us close out the game with a little bit more poise but again, it’s about players, characters, men, willingness, commitment, and finding a way to get a result especially in the first game of the season,” head coach Pablo Mastroeni said about the game. “My hat goes off to those guys in the locker room that really dug in deep and got three points to start off the season.”

Next up for Mastroeni’s men is a cross-country trip to take on the New York Red Bulls next Saturday, March 11 at 2:00 p.m. MT (UniMas). In their only meeting of 2016, the Rapids edged the Red Bulls 2-1 in Commerce City.

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