Saturday’s match between the Portland Timbers and Colorado Rapids had quite a lot to digest.
It was the coldest game in MLS history. The temperature at kickoff was a mere 18 degrees, which squeaks past a pair of Minnesota United matches played at a balmy 19 degrees. The pitch was covered in snow by halftime, leading this game to become the third match to earn the title of Snow Clasico. Then there was an early and controversial red card against the Rapids. Defender Axel Sjoberg was sent off after VAR penalized him for a handball in the box, forcing his team to play down a man for well over an hour.
Finally, it saw that ten man team comeback from a goal down, twice, to wrestle a draw away from the Portland Timbers. It didn’t seem like any of these factors mattered when it came to their determination.
“It felt like back in fifth grade playing tackle football on a snow day,” Rapids midfielder Benny Feilhaber said after the game. “It didn’t feel like a real game, to be honest.”
Feilhaber scored the first game tying goal in the first minute of the second half and played a hand creating the final goal of the game.
The man who scored the second, and very late, equalizer was substitute Andre Shinyashiki. The rookie was making his MLS debut and, despite being from the warm climate of Brazil, he was the only player on the pitch without long sleeves.
“I’m from Brazil so growing up, I did not experience this weather,” Shinyashiki said, “but at DU [Denver University] there were a couple of times it got this cold, maybe not as snowy as it did here, but definitely this cold I’ve played in before so, just kind of used to it.”
The cold didn’t bother him. He was in the right place at the right time to bag the tying goal. The play started with a blocked shot from Feilhaber that fell to Dillon Serna, who took a tight angle shot that goalkeeper Jeff Attinella got a palm to. The rebound came right to Shinyashiki, who was all alone three yards from an open goal.
“I was just trying to stay in the play,” he said. “When the conditions aren’t ideal you just try to fight for every ball and that’s what I did. I saw that Benny got a shot, then they blocked it, same with Serna. I thought he was going to cross, but he decided to shoot and I was there to tap it in.”
The Rapids are a pretty remade team from a year ago and the new faces played a big role in this game. Feilhaber scored on his debut, and so did Kei Kamara, who opened the scoring in the 16th minute, when the Rapids still had 11 men on the field.
This is only one game, and it was played in bizarre conditions that even MLS rarely sees. But if the defending Western Conference champs, freezing cold, and a blizzard couldn’t stop this team while down a man, the Rapids have the potential to be one of the more improved teams in the league this year.