Published Jul 17, 2022
Written By & Photos By:  Andrew Mosier
                         Central Region Contributor


The Colorado Rapids Women came out on the winning end of a wild Central Region Championship match Saturday morning, topping the Kansas City Current II 3-2 at Regis University.


The win advances the Rapids to the WPSL Championship semifinals Friday, July 22 in Stillwater, Okla.


“That is what a championship match is supposed to look like,” Sebastian Giraldo, Rapids Women head coach, said. “First, we controlled things. Then they made some changes and took control. From there it was desire. Just pure desire to get the result.”


And a little bit of luck. Kansas City hit the crossbar three times in the final thirty minutes of the match as it desperately fought for the tying goal.


“The difference there in the end was the crossbar,” Colin Bulwich, Kansas City Current coach, said with an exasperated chuckle. “One of those goes in and things change.”


With both teams having played semifinal matches in brutal heat the day before, the two coaches took opposite approaches to begin the championship match. Kansas City opted to play conservatively, building slowly from the back and conserving its energy while the Rapids opted to push the game and tempo from the beginning.


Just three minutes into the match Marianna Annest tested Current II goalkeeper, Brilynn Mueller from the left flank after a Kansas City turnover in its defensive third.


The Rapids took the lead in the 15’ minute after a flurry of substitutions by both teams. Upon entering the match Sami Feller took a clever one-touch pass from fellow substitute Ella Moody at the top of the penalty area. Feller wrong-footed a Current II defender and finished with her right foot back across the goal to the far post.


The Rapids doubled its lead in the 23’ minute when Claire Silverman neatly finished off Mueller’s fingertips with her left foot after a delicate defense-spitting pass from Kaitlin Coffin from deep in midfield.


With temperatures already above 90 degrees, the officiating team utilized the break in play after the Rapids goal for a cooling break. Bulwich took advantage of the pause to change the shape of his squad by loading the central midfield to counter the pressure and possession of the ball the Rapids had enjoyed through the first 25 minutes of the match.


“We knew if we were going to have a chance we couldn’t sit back,” Bulwich said. “The Rapids are too good of a team for that. We had to take the game to them a little more than we were, which isn’t easy in heat like this. But the women responded, and we got things level.”


After two close calls, Olivia Garcia jumped on a poor pass as the Rapids attempted to build from the back in the 33minute. Garcia drilled a left-footed blast to the upper far corner to pull one back for the now confident Current II.


Buoyed by the goal, Kansas City continued to take the match to the Rapids as the first half ran down. Rapids goalkeeper Ellie Sommers was tested twice immediately after conceding the first Current II goal, saving spectacularly to her right to parry away a free kick from Bella Field.


"Ellie [Sommers] has been fantastic for us all season,” Giraldo said. “She certainly kept us in the game today.”


A minute into stoppage time Sommers could not stop Megan Hinnenkamp after she ran onto a diagonal ball from midfield. Sommers charged off her line forcing Hinnenkamp wide before she could get a shot off from a tight angle. The shot glanced off the inside of the goalpost to level the score going into halftime.


The Rapids began the second half by taking the lead again just a minute after play resumed when Alyssa Glover ran onto a ball played from Annest on her own side of midfield after pinching in from the left flank. Glover calmly stepped on the ball sending her marker sliding past her and slotted the ball to the near post of the Current II’s second-half goalkeeper Addison Tauscher.


With the fatigue setting in for both teams, neither side assumed control over the match as it had done in the first half. Play became ragged as both sides utilized the open substitution policy to the limit, rotating in exhausted players off at nearly every stoppage. Both teams created opportunities. The Current II put three balls off the crossbar—two from close range after scrambles for the ball—and another after Sommers was able to get her fingertips to a shot from distance.


“At the end it was nothing but pure fight,” Hanna Gallegos (Denver University), Rapids defender, said. “We were not going to lose that game. No matter what it took we were not going to lose that game.”


With the win, the Rapids move on to the WPSL Championship semifinal on July 22 versus the East Region winner, SJEB FC in Stillwater Okla.