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Cooke leads Rapids to 2-1 win over Wizards

Posted on 29 March 2009 by pshea

As he took off his warmup gear in the 63rd minute, Terry Cooke must have heard the handful of Colorado fans cheering behind the bench at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night. The crowd roared when he ran onto the field, and the volume doubled when he curled a free kick into the upper corner moments later.

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“He’s an extremely valuable member of the group,” Rapids head coach Gary Smith said after the game. “You’ve seen what a good professional he is. He comes on, he attacks the game, and on this occasion he wins it, no two ways about it.”

Before Cooke entered the game, Wizards’ defender Jonathan Leathers chopped down Colin Clark outside the penalty box on the left side. Clark, Cooke, and fellow midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy congregated near the ball. Clark ran over it, and (as if he had seen this movie before) Ballouchy turned and headed back to line up for a kickoff while Cooke curled the ball over the wall off the post in the return address corner.

If Smith looked like a genius for putting in Cooke, Curt Onalfo was the Wizard from Kansas. Onalfo inserted Michael Kraus for Abe Thompson, and Kraus earned the equalizer with an opportunistic dash behind the Colorado defense two minutes after stepping on the field.

Rapids defender Cory Gibbs failed to collect the ball. Kraus pounced and then pounded a shot in off the crossbar as a stunned Matt Pickens retreated to the goal.

“We were flat,” noted Colorado defender Ugo Ihemelu. “You’re always most vulnerable after a goal.”

According to Smith, “Every single time one of our defenders went to attack the ball, the back four was so flat that anything that skipped through or was missed was generally picked up by a forward taking a little bit of a gamble. There wasn’t any anticipation that one of our defenders might mishead or miskick. We just looked vulnerable. That can’t be.”

With the score tied, Cooke continued to add an edge to the Colorado attack. Four minutes after the equalizer, Cooke sent a long cross into the box, and Casey headed it inches wide of the post.

A minute later, Cooke set up the game-winner with a curling pass into Clark’s stride on the left side. Rather than shred his way into the two defenders containing him, Clark held the ball while Omar Cummings raced unmarked up the center of the field. Clark fed Cummings, who banged the ball low into the corner.

From the beginning

The Rapids maintained possession for the first 20 minutes, primarily attacking with Jordan Harvey and Clark on the left side. But when Gibbs got a yellow card for trampling former Rapids forward Herculez Gomez on the wing, the Wizards took control. Claudio Lopez took four shots from that point until halftime, forcing Pickens to make three of his four saves of the night, including a spiked header off a cross from Leathers that Pickens was lucky enough to parry off the line.

Moments before halftime, Nick LaBrocca carried the ball up the center of the field and rifled a low shot, one of six on-goal for the home side.

In the second half, Pickens kept Colorado in the game with one more save, deflections for corner kicks, and decisive clearances. But it was Cooke who secured the game for the Rapids.

Up next

The Rapids will hit the road for about a month, including three games against the Galaxy. In addition to a game at the Home Depot Center on April 4, they’ll play a U.S. Open Cup game on April 7. After visiting Columbus for a game on April 11, they’ll head south to face the Dynamo on April 19, and then return home to host the Galaxy on April 25.

Final thoughts from Colorado’s head coach

“I’m disappointed,” Smith said. “Even though we won the game, there were too many times we looked like we could give the game away. We have to be better than that if we’re going to achieve anything.”

ASN Photo Gallery

ASN’s ace photographers Mike Murphy and Nick Murphy were at DSGP Saturday night and snapped the following photos:

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