Categorized | Match Reports

Another three-point three-pointer

Posted on 05 September 2010 by pshea

The Colorado Rapids punched in a flurry of three unanswered goals against Chivas USA for a second consecutive 3-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday night.

In the 52nd minute, Omar Cummings delivered a long-range blast that visiting goalkeeper Zach Thornton couldn’t handle. Colorado’s Conor Casey read the rebound better than the nearest defenders, toe-poking the first of three goals in 29 minutes.

Cummings followed with an eviscerating series of cuts past Ante Jazic in the 68th minute, collecting a pass from Mehdi Ballouchy before cutting and feigning to shoot with his left and cutting back to set up his right for a low laser into the left corner. Cummings put the game out of reach 13 minutes later when he raced behind defenders for a right-footed tuck-away off a breakaway from the left.

Chivas USA arrived with the worst record in the MLS Western Conference (6-11-4), and they left the stadium with only one shot for the night, a snapping header in the fourth minute. For the remainder of the game, all of their touches seemed cursed, as if Rapids fans stuck pins in Chivas USA dolls right before players sent a pass out of bounds or took a first touch with the delicacy of a goalmouth clearance. Even Justin Braun (normally a solid target) had trouble holding the ball during his 31 minutes at the end of the game.

“Sometimes it was because of solid defending, and sometimes because we were not technically sharp,” summarized Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez.

Vasquez said he established a conservative strategy to accommodate the altitude and the weariness from playing a third game in less than a week. For the first 52 minutes, it worked. Much of the game involved midfield battles early on. Thornton saved three shots from Casey, and Pickens nipped Paulo Nagamura’s header over the bar, but the action didn’t stray too far from the center circle in the first half.

“I have a lot respect for them because they try to play no matter what, they try to move the ball,” Rapids midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy said.

Ballouchy noted how the tide turned in the game. “To be honest,” Ballouchy said, “we really didn’t start that well. We gave up the ball a few too many times in the first half.”

“Some of the quality on the ball was below the high standards that the guys have set,” Colorado head coach Gary Smith said. “The second half there was a little more edge and a little bit more positive motion to our play. Conor was absolutely on the pulse for the knockdown. And he gets the ball rolling. Once it gets rolling, everybody’s on it. Everyone wants to score and be involved.”

For the first goal, the Colorado midfield swirled like sharks and regained control of the ball in the center of the field. Kosuke Kimura stepped in front of Jeff Larentowicz and pushed forward, finding Cummings with enough space on the right side for him to unleash the challenging blast that Casey put away.

“We have Pablo [Mastroeni] and Jeff in the center and me tucking in as well,” Ballouchy explained, “so we kind of create the extra man, and it gives Kosuke a chance to get forward and join in the attack.”

Speaking of Mastroeni, Smith noted how, “Pablo’s been up all night ill. He was very close to coming off at halftime. Quite simply, that’s why he’s our captain. He stays out for there for 90 minutes and puts on a display.”

Smith explained the explosion of goals over the past two weeks with a definition of “form.”

“I could show you 20 DVDs,” Smith said, “probably 18 of them we have fabulous chances and we weren’t quite as clinical as we should have been. That’s called ‘form.’ That’s why Edson [Buddle] scores 10 goals in eight games [and merely three more in the next 10 games]. When your form is hot, you score goals. When your form is warm, you don’t score goals.”

The visitors’ form seemed cursed, but Chivas USA took the right approach.

“For 50 minutes, they’re in the game,” Smith said. “Once you score, it changes everybody’s mindset.”

Vasquez concurred. “The first goal mentally affected us,” Vasquez said. “They got the momentum, and we couldn’t shake it off. They went after us and finished the game.”

Looking ahead, Vasquez said, “We will need to regroup and look forward to next Friday.”

Ballouchy looks ahead with an eye for team-wide momentum. “Definitely confidence,” Ballouchy said. “We are heading to a tough place, New York. And we hope to play as well as we have the last couple of games. It’s a great test.”

Selective hometown player ratings

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being highest.

Colorado Rapids

Anthony Wallace (5): Starting at left back for his first minutes since the trade with FC Dallas, Wallace balanced (in near-equal quarters) steady possessions, solid defending, creative attacks, and semi-egregious errors. Overall, he did his part for the shutout. In the fourth minute, Jesus Padilla slipped the ball to Alan Gordon on Wallace’s flank, and Gordon served up a perfect cross. Paulo Nagamura snapped a hard header, and Pickens sprang to redirect it over the bar. Over the course of more than 86 minutes left to play, the visitors didn’t take another shot.

Omar Cummings (8): Worthy of a “nine” in the second half, Cummings maintained his rapidly successive attacking style of eluding defenders and overcoming their attempts to foul him. All three goals started with Cummings shaking free. However, the Jamaican who will represent his national team this week started the game on Saturday with an iron foot, losing possession uncharacteristically and misdirecting passes with bad timing and incorrect angles. Noted in the in-stadium post-game interview, Cummings wore white shoes to start the game but switched into yellow shoes at halftime. His touches turned golden until head coach Gary Smith obviated a hattrick with a ceremonial substitution less than 10 minutes from the final whistle. The crowd applauded appropriately, matching the loud ovation Cummings received during the pregame player announcements.

Conor Casey, 77 minutes (7): Casey was relentless with consistent sniffs (four of five shots on frame, including the opening goal).

Jeff Larentowicz (6): In the first half, Larentowicz had iron-foot syndrome as bad (or worse) than Omar’s, but he snapped out of it before the break.

Pablo Mastroeni (8): The captain battled illness and put in a solid performance to neutralize the midfield and step up to take a shot off a corner kick sequence in the 32nd minute.

Chivas USA

Yamith Cuesta (2): Cuesta inventoried the china shop like a whiskey-filled bull. After leveling Jamie Smith with a cross-check on the wing, Cuesta received a yellow card for thumping Cummings to the ground. He treated the ball with less tenderness. He also allowed Casey to get to the ball first for the opening goal, didn’t cover the far post after Cummings sliced past Michael Umana and Ante Jazic on the second, and he took a chance to jump around Andre Akpan to clear the ball with his head in the 81st minute, ultimately flicking it on to Cummings for the third goal.

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