COMMERCE CITY, CO - SEPTEMBER 05: Jaime Castrillon #23 of the Colorado Rapids celebrates his goal in the 86th minute against the Portland Timbers with teammate Hendry Thomas #12 of the Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on September 5, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated the Timbers 3-0. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
There is a very good argument to be made that Friday's game against the Portland Timbers was the best game we've seen all season from the Rapids. Yes, even better than that other 3-0 win they had against Portland. There's plenty of reasons that could be the case as well -- Oscar Pareja finally made adjustments to a roster that worked out in his favor, the team looked cool, calm and composed on offense and the defense was about as solid as we've seen from any defense all season long, thanks in big part to Hendry Thomas.
It didn't hurt that Oscar finally decided to use the youth players that had been clamoring to get onto the starting XI for weeks since the tank began. Watching two young'uns get goals early was a sight for sore eyes, especially for those of us who happen to be fans of Tony Cascio and Andre Akpan. (We all know I've been on the 'start Andre' train since about 2010 and I'm probably the only person who owns a Cascio shirt, but that's another article entirely.)
Anyway, on to the action from said best game in a while...Starting Andre Akpan in the lineup may have come from a few different schools of reasoning, one of which could be the fact that the Conor Casey/Tony Cascio forward pair just didn't seem to work out the several times it had been attempted this season. Akpan had been putting on some decent showmanship in his short appearances at the ends of games recently, so it made sense to give him a shot. Similar to the game he was given against Chicago back in 2011, he immediately paid dividends.
Cascio putting up instant chemistry with him didn't hurt, either.
Kosuke Kimura was matched up against Cascio in his first ever start against his former team at DSGP, and to say that Tony dominated him would be an understatement. It took only 50 seconds for Cascio to out-muscle Kimura and get a shot on target that rattled off the post, the first chance of a torrid night for the former Rapids right back.
Akpan put up the first goal of the game in only the sixth minute. Drew Moor sent a solid ball into the area and Cascio was able to get himself over Kimura to knee it backwards, where Akpan was waiting. There was a bit of luck as Akpan's ball could have easily hit his sliding teammate in front of the net, but instead it found the twine and the Rapids were up 1-0.
Cascio again showed his mettle getting his first ever two point game in MLS as he scored a possible goal of the week candidate in the 27th minute. Jaime Castrillon provided the brilliant service this time as Kimura let Cascio run absolutely unmarked into the box. His sliding shot was stopped by Donovan Ricketts, but the Timbers defense simply stood and watched as he tidily collected his rebound and got a second chance that Ricketts couldn't parry.
Halftime came and went with the Rapids looking good for their 2-0 lead. They had blown leads like that before, but the Timbers didn't look incredibly interested at forcing anything upon the Rapids defense. Jaime Castrillon added his seventh goal of the season late in the match off a Kamani Hill corner kick, but the result had really never been in question -- one of the few times we've been able to say that about a Rapids game this year, eh?
Shame that the stands were half full and the television crowd was probably all watching Handegg, that was a hell of a game for Colorado. Will that be the catalyst to boost the team into a late season screamer into the playoffs?
No, no it won't. Still fun though.
MAN OF THE MATCH: That might have been the best game that Kosuke Kimura ever played for the Rapids, actually.
GOAT OF THE MATCH: Does Edu wandering around wearing a hot pink polo shirt with a popped collar count as a GOTM candidate? Cause it totally should.