It's almost impeccable how much this game matched up with the match against the Columbus Crew at home last season to start of the 2010 MLS Playoffs. The scoreline, the method of play from both teams, even down to the crowd and temperature were so close to the 2010 match that I'm pretty sure I could have just posted last season's game recap and not many people would have noticed. Either way, the Colorado Rapids have once again started a playoff run with a win, 1-0 over the Crew at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
A freezing day in Colorado and up to a foot of snow the day before kept the crowds away from DSGP, but with the supporters terraces hopping and full the Rapids had an energy in the cold that the Crew just couldn't seem to match.
Columbus were clearly hoping to squeak out a defensive masterpiece today, and knowing how Colorado's offense had been sputtering the last few weeks it wasn't an altogether bad plan. The Rapids came into the match seemingly expecting a hard defensive attempt from the Crew as they rammed their feet on the gas from the very first minute. The Omar Cummings - Caleb Folan striker tandem were getting the ball forward quite well but were stifled as we've seen them often be until about a half hour into the match.
At that point, the Rapids finally seemed to solve the problems that Columbuses back play were handing them over and over. The shots that were at that point all right toward Will Hesmer or slowly drifting wide were suddenly snapping far closer to their target and forcing Hesmer into better and better saves as they kept going on. While it is true that goalkeeping wins games, it finally failed the Crew in the stoppage time of the first half as the Crew seemed to take their foot off the gas pedal anticipating the half's end and Brian Mullan was able to sneak a pass through to Kosuke Kimura on the byline. Kimura delivered a brilliant pass right to an unmarked Omar Cummings' foot right in front of goal, and Cummings was able to salvage what had been a thus-far forgettable evening for himself with his first ever post-season goal.
The Rapids took their first half goal and ran with it in the second, content with keeping the ball away from Columbus and limiting their possession to frustrating bouts of it near the side-line. Though Columbus picked up far more possession in the second half than they did in the first with 55% total, they never managed to put together much in the way of good chances in the final third; they only managed three shots on goal and a paltry three chances inside the 18 yard box all match long.
Jamie Smith went down injured for Colorado midway through the second half, requiring the stretcher to be taken off the field. No word yet on how severe the injury is, but it would be a shame for Colorado to lose their best winger right on the heels of another match against the much more stout Sporting Kansas City.
The last few mintues of the game provided some much needed intrigue for Columbus as they finally managed to sniff the goal a few times and began to launch cross after cross into the box hoping in vain for anyone to meet the end of it but Drew Moor and Miguel Comminges. Both Macoumba Kandji and Caleb Folan had fantastic chances to seal the deal in the four minutes of stoppage time provided, but the game was to remain a nail-biter until the final whistle finally blew. Either way, Colorado has once again pulled out a win in the playoffs at home and now have a two-legger against Eastern Conference leading Sporting KC to contend with. It will begin once again at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Sunday the 30th at 5:30 PM Mountain Time.
Hopefully the success that the Rapids have had thus far at DSGP in the playoffs will continue against a much tougher opponent.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kosuke Kimura. Tough all match long and created the goal that Omar scored brilliantly. Even a rouge bag of sand thrown on the pitch could probably have put that fantastic pass away.
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Hard to say anyone was the goat in this one, pretty much everyone played well and even Caleb Folan had a couple of good moments offensively and (!) defensively.