Sporting Kansas City 2 Colorado Rapids 0 - Defending MLS Champs Eliminated

KANSAS CITY, KS - NOVEMBER 02: Players celebrate after the final whistle as Sporting Kansas City defeats the Colorado Rapids 2-0 to win the MLS playoff game on November 2, 2011 at LiveStrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

On a cold, wet, and waterlogged pitch at Livestrong Sporting Park, the Colorado Rapids succumbed to their wounds and were beaten 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City. The aggregate score was 4-0 in favor of the Kansas-based club. Aurelian Collin and C.J. Sapong tallied for Sporting on either side of halftime, while Graham Zusi assisted on both goals. With the loss, Colorado was eliminated from the postseason, while Sporting Kansas City will look forward to either Philadelphia Union or Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference final. 

Rapids head coach Gary Smith was forced to field a lineup that had many reserves and also had them play in a 4-3-3 formation. Colorado faced an injury crisis as Kosuke Kimura and Drew Moor were injured during the previous game. Colorado had seven regulars on the injured reserve. Wells Thompson played at right back, as opposed to his familiar midfield role. Scott Palguta started in central defense alongside Marvell Wynne. Ross Labauex started in central midfield with Joseph Nane while Brian Mullan and Sanna Nyassi supported Omar Cummings from the attacking wings. Even with the attacking lineup, Colorado found it difficult to hold possession or seriously threaten Jimmy Nielen's goal for the majority of the evening.

Sporting Kansas City found the breakthrough in the 28th minute courtesy of Aurelian Collin. Graham Zusi sent in a free kick that Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens should have done better with. With his back facing the goal, Collin somehow got his head to Zusi's free kick, while Pickens jumped but hit Collin in the back of the head as the ball rolled into the back of the net. With the aggregate scoreline of 3-0, Sporting Kansas City were well on their way to the Eastern Conference final. 

Omar Cummings was substituted at halftime for Quincy Amarikwa. Sanna Nyassi and Mac Kandji did their best to be creative and find ways to challenge Nielsen. However, Sporting Kansas City controlled large portions of the second half and did their best to score another to completely kill off the semifinal. 

The second goal of the night was scored from a fantastic header from C.J. Sapong. Graham Zusi sent in a curling free kick and the Virginia native punished Colorado's set-piece defense and a sprawling Matt Pickens. With the aggregate score 4-0 in favor of Sporting, the night was essentially over with fifteen minutes to spare. The win would prove to be Sporting KC's fourth consecutive shutout. 

As the Rapids head into the offseason, questions abound as to whether or not Gary Smith will be the head coach for the 2012 campaign. The English manager stated after the game that he wants to lead the Rapids in 2012, but his future is still unclear. Smith's contract goes until December 31 and the Englishman has compiled a 39-31-35 record since he took over in 2008. 

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