So what if they didn't have Joseph Nane, feared sniper, this time? The Colorado Rapids got what might end up being the biggest result of the season on Saturday night, taking down their Rocky Mountain Rivals 1-0 to get one hand on the elusive Rocky Mountain Cup.
Starting nearly the same lineup as last game against Portland, the only significant change came with Atiba Harris taking over wing duties from Tony Cascio. Perhaps the wing was where he had belonged all along, because within five minutes he was already well on his way to his best performance of the season. It started with the only goal of the game, when a scramble in the box ended with Edson Buddle holding off no fewer than four RSL defenders, which left Harris wide open for the easy shot.
After that, it was just one of the most fantastic defensive efforts of the season that kept the game going. Clint Irwin was forced to face off against his third penalty in three starts -- and the second straight mediocre penalty decision from a referee against the Rapids, to boot (Prosoccertalk agrees on this one!) -- and made the first save on a penalty in as long as I can remember from a Rapids keeper. It wasn't a bad save at all, either. Alvaro Saborio hooked it quite well toward the corner, but Clint was able to get just enough of it to force it onto the post.
Other than a couple of dangerous plays from Saborio near the end, Colorado looked pretty solid for the rest of the match, as well. Oscar Pareja made a couple of smart subs, knocking down the forward line in order to bolster the midfield -- they had been clogging the passing lanes for RSL all evening, and adding Nathan Sturgis especially helped their cause in that regard. That was all they needed to hold on for the first clean sheet and first victory of 2013.
Oh, and there were no new injuries suffered by the Rapids when the final whistle blew. That might be the most important statistic of all.