Occasionally there is a game that can define a turning point in your season in sports. Colorado Rockies fans remember that 14th inning walk off grand slam by Ryan Spilborghs that drove a nail into the Giants' playoff hopes back in 2010. Rapids fans knew that they really had a shot at the MLS Cup last year after going into LA and winning 3-1 against the Galaxy. Well, this has the makings of being such a game for the 2011 Colorado Rapids. After losing their best striker and only real goalscorer on the year, the Rapids looked all but dead in the water when it came to their playoff and CONCACAF opportunities.
And then this happened. A 4-1 win over a team hyped far more than the Rapids and with seemingly half of the MLS all star squad, boasting three Designated Players including shiny new goalkeeper Frank Rost who had just shut out Chivas USA in his first ever appearance. Well, that's why they play the games and with a replacement for Conor Casey seemingly nowhere in sight, it turned out that he was under our noses the entire time.
Sanna Nyassi had been pretty disappointing and frustrating up until this point of the season. He always seemed to try doing too much with the ball on his foot, not shooting and catching only glimpses of the net. Tonight, he took those flashes and turned them into a roaring flame of awesome. He started only two minutes into the match as Omar Cummings put a beautiful flick on the ground right to a wide open Nyassi who slotted it home. Interestingly, that was Frank Rost's first ever shot on goal faced in MLS.
His second shot faced wasn't much better for him as Nyassi decided to take a flyer from 30 yards out that rang off the post in the 26th minute. The entire Red Bulls defense froze as it banged off the woodwork, allowing a streaking Wells Thomspon to zip into the box all alone and snap a low one into the net, his second goal in two games now. New York had a couple of opportunities as the half wore on, but very few good ones other than a small defensive breakdown by Pablo Mastroeni that led to a save and a corner kick. Mehdi Ballocuhy took the shot on the corner and missed the net completely, an ongoing theme with him I've noticed.
The most brilliant and exciting moment of the game happened at the 31st minute. Nyassi got the ball with the entire back four ahead of him and danced through three guys en route to his second goal and the Rapids third. With a 3-0 lead only a half hour into the match, Colorado could have sat back but instead chose to keep searching for their fourth. Thompson, Nyassi and Omar Cummings all missed chances right up at goal - the most aggregious being a Cummings cross right to Wells in the 6 yard box that Wells tripped over his feet trying to get to - but couldn't seem to find their fourth goal.
Obviously, Rapids fans didn't mind that an incredible amount.
The second half started with more Rapids possession domination and another great chance for Thompson, who was a diving Rost save away from his second goal of the evening. Chance after chance turned into near misses for Colorado, but eventually the amazing play of Nyassi stopped being denied and he shredded the defense once again, snapping his way through two players before knocking the ball off of Rost's diving arm and into the net for a hat trick. Omar Cummings also earned his third assist on the night with that goal. Thierry Henry eventually scored a goal to kill the shutout off a good setup from Juan Agudelo, but by that point it was far too late for anything to change in the long run and the final was 4-1.
Don't misunderstand this, there is no legitimate reason to get excited to the point of expecting a repeat of the MLS Cup this season; they're not going to score four goals every week, after all. However, it looks like this team has more spark, more fight and more depth than we had originally though. It starts with a 4-1 win over New York and next up the Rapids have a chance to start a legitimate roll on Saturday as the weak New England Revolution come to town. If the Rapids look as good in that game as they did in this one, then let the cheers begin.
We may just be the next Dallas if Sanna Nyassi can keep his act together, lord knows that the Cummings/Nyassi tandem up front produced some of the most exciting football we've ever seen out of a Rapids offense. And at the very least, this should kill the 'boring football' meme!
MAN OF THE MATCH: Sanna Nyassi. Quite simply one of the most dominating performances I've ever seen out of a Rapids player in the history of the team. He never had a bad touch, four points on the night and made the New York defense look high school level.
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Pablo Mastroeni. Invisible for most of the night, mistake prone for the parts that we actually noticed him. Not bad but by Pablo's standards not a good match at all.