Dominique Badji makes mark, scoring game-winner for Rapids

Dominique Badji is officially back.

The fan favorite scored his first goal since his Colorado Rapids return on Saturday night, a game-winner in the 89th minute to beat the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 in the Bay Area.

“The resilience of the group once again, and really the contributions by everyone– it’s really gratifying when you have that many players on the same page,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “We make changes and we don’t lose anything. We keep or pick the energy level up even more. Really proud of the team overall.”

The Rapids acquired Badji via trade on July 29. They were looking to add depth at forward, particularly striker, and the Rapids were familiar with Badji from his first stint with the club from 2015-2018.

The Rapids knew they were getting a veteran MLS striker and fan favorite who could help supply goals. And he came through on Saturday night as a substitute, finishing off a sequence with Jonathan Lewis and Nico Mezquida to score the match’s lone tally.

“I saw the ball initially come in. I thought J-Lew’s pass was to me, but after looking at the game again, it wasn’t — it was to Mezquida,” Badji said. “It was a great pass because then he could have sprung me on. Mezquida took a great touch, played me a perfect ball and I just found myself in front of the goal and was able to slot it.”

Lewis got the play started, sliding a pass into the middle to Mezquida, who took a touch and delivered a perfectly timed ball for Badji to slot it home first-time.

“Dom did a great job of timing his run and really, in a high-pressure moment, was able to deal with pressure behind him and the keeper coming at him and pick out the corner and score,” Fraser said. “It was really, really a well-executed counterattack.”

Badji has made three appearances for the club since he re-joined, but Saturday night was the first time he was able to make his mark. The Senegalese striker will do whatever it takes to help the team but he wants to be more than just a “super-sub.”

“I don’t see myself necessarily as a super-sub,” Badji said. “I know what I bring to the table and I know that I can do that consistently given minutes. I see myself playing where the coach wants me to, but I’m ready to start and have an impact.”

He has an opportunity with starting striker Diego Rubio dealing with an injury.

“There are going to be moments when guys are going to contribute more or less minutes,” Fraser said. “To us, to me and the team, it doesn’t really matter who scores the goals or who gets the wins. At the end of the day, it’s very much about the team.”

Badji has now appeared in 84 games for the Rapids, with his 25th goal coming Saturday night.

There haven’t been many goals in his club career bigger than that one. The win vaulted the Rapids up to second place in the MLS Western Conference. They are now just one point behind first-place Seattle with a game in hand. Two October meetings with Sounders loom large.

“It’s a great locker room,” Badji said. “… It’s not easy coming into a new team in the middle of the season because there are so many moving pieces that not a lot of people are aware of. But this locker room has made it very easy for me to come in and feel at home.”

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