The last time I was in Colorado with the team, it snowed six inches during the match. We would have no such weather in the Western Conference Semifinals of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs. The sky was a beautiful dark blue under perfectly sunny skies with temperatures hovering around 55 degrees for most of the match. With a 2:30pm local time start and the sun beginning its descent behind the newly snowcapped Rocky Mountains, I knew the first half would be a photographer's dream come true for great light.
In the locker room before the match the team talked about being ready. Being ready for set pieces. Being ready to step up when needed. Being focused for the task at hand.
As they left the locker room and made their way down the stairs that lead to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park pitch, the light on the field was perfect and the Timbers were attacking right into the sun.
Although the light was amazing, the Timbers were not attacking the way they wanted, and they allowed Colorado to dictate the match. The Rapids controlled the ball 58% of the time and outshot the Timbers 9-2 in the first half. Even though the flow of the game was not going the way the Timbers had hoped, I was still like a little kid in a candy store shooting hundreds of photos every time they were in the nice light on the attacking side of the field.
As the first half wore down and the light began to fade, I snapped a photo of Sebastián Blanco. It may be one of the best photos I’ve ever shot of him. The way he’s looking back towards the light, the dark background and the look in his eye that told me this game was far from over.
The second half was a completely different story. Not only was the good light gone, but so to was the Timbers best attacker after Blanco suffered an injury in the 50th minute. This time it was the Timbers turn to control the run of play. It was the Timbers who out shot the Rapids 10-1.
After the goal, I made my way over to the bench for the end of the match. At the final whistle I shot head coach Giovanni Savarese and the coaching staff celebrating the win.
I then went onto the field and found Mabiala and took photos of him celebrating the victory with teammates. After the on-field jubilation I made my way to the locker room (top photo) as the team celebrated the victory on Thanksgiving knowing they are just 90 minutes away from their third appearance in MLS Cup.