Commerce City, CO (SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Rapids will make their home bow in the 2014 season on Saturday as they prepare to welcome the Portland Timbers to Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Colorado opened its season last week with a fortunate 1-1 draw at Red Bull New York. The Rapids fell behind after Thierry Henry handed the home side the lead, but Marvin Chavez was adjudged to have been fouled from behind in the box by Jamison Olave and substitute Vicente Sanchez buried the ensuing penalty to draw the visitors level.
It marked the head-coaching debut of Pablo Mastroeni, and he was not afraid to make some big changes to the squad.
John Berner made his professional debut in goal, deputizing for the injured Clint Irwin, and Dillon Serna, who made his MLS debut in the final match of the 2013 season, was handed his first professional start.
"We have a lot of young guys out on the field," Mastroeni said. "I think for a guy like Dillon Serna, in his debut as a starter in Major League Soccer and a lot of second year players out there ... and I think coming in to Red Bull Arena against some of the players that they have and what they accomplished last year it's something to be in awe of. I think once they settled in they put in a decent performance."
Portland is very much the opposite. The Timbers, who topped the Western Conference during the regular season last year, welcome back the majority of their squad.
Caleb Porter, though, did manage to add a few key pieces, one of which has already paid massive dividends.
Gaston Fernandez was brought in to bolster Portland's attack and that is exactly what has happened through two games this season. The Argentine has scored both of Portland's goals thus far to help the club claim back-to-back home draws to open the season.
"Gaston Fernandez is a quality player, and a lot of people are forgetting that he's just been in this country for a couple months," Porter said. "It takes guys time to settle in and get comfortable in this league, and I thought for large periods of this game, he took the game over and was one of the better players on the field.
"He deserved to score the goal. He's one of these guys who gets himself into good spots. He's not the biggest, but he's smart. He gets himself around the goal, and with goal scorers, the ball seems to find them, and that's twice now where the ball has found him in good spots for two tap-in goals."