The first MLS match at Mile High Stadium, which featured the Colorado Rapids against the Dallas Burn, was one I will never forget as I was on the broadcast team with Bill Land (now with the NBA San Antonio Spurs).
They say you only get one “curtain raiser” and on this day the Rapids delivered.
Picture this,1996, two years after hosting the FIFA World Cup in the United States, MLS kicked off in cities around the U.S. Would professional soccer ever stick in this country?
U.S. stars were allocated to different markets. In Colorado, the star attraction of this day was centre-back Marcelo Balboa in his debut for the Rapids, at home, after returning from Club Leon in Mexico.
Balboa jumped to prominence with his play in the ’94 World Cup. Long hair and a missed bicycle kick prompted Rapids owner Philip Anschutz to say he wanted the guy “who did the bicycle kick” on in Colorado.
Other players of note for the Rapids included Chris Henderson, Steve Trittschuh, Shaun Bartlett and Jean Harbor.
The Dallas Burn also had a connection to the Colorado area with Head Coach Dave Dir and Midfielder Ted Eck, both part of 1992 and 1993 APSL Champion Colorado Foxes.
— The Original Rap#H2O (@rapidmanh2o) April 17, 2020
The build up to this game was all about the debut of Balboa and did he live up to it! Our pre-game open was all built around his debut.
In the World Cup for the U.S., Balboa was a central defender but Rapids Manager Bob Houghton pushed him high off of strikers Shaun Bartlett and Jean Harbor.
Houghton ball was as direct as it came as the Rapids by-passed midfield to their strikers, and Balboa would look to pick up second balls.
I do remember Bill on the way to the TV booth on, a crisp, cool day, mentioning something about the altitude in relation to our climb to our vantage point.
I remember the ball just slicing through the altitude almost looking unnatural.
Balboa would score twice and the Rapids would deliver a much needed first ever home win, 3-1, in front of 21,711 fans at the famed Old Mile High Stadium.
It was a prideful, emotional day as the hope was that this would be a league that would finally sink in roots for long term existence.
The anniversary of our first home game is tomorrow, and who better to help us relive those memories than @GlennDavisSoc?
— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) April 20, 2020