Going into a stadium where they hadn't won for nearly a decade, coming off of a series of injuries and with lukewarm road form so far, expectations for the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening weren't particularly high. However, as they've done all season, the Rapids found a way to surprise us with a brilliant 2-0 victory at Crew Stadium.
It wasn't a win that came against the run of play, either. Colorado had the ball and used it well right from the outset, with their first goal coming early. Edson Buddle won a ball in the midfield, allowing Danny Mwanga to whip a ball in to Atiba Harris in the box. Harris couldn't control it, but the ball landed kindly, right in front of an onrushing Edson Buddle. Being the finisher that he is, there was no doubt it was going in.
At that point, it looked like the Rapids switched up to a style that teams were using often against them last season. That is, they let the Crew have possession for most of the match, keeping enough men behind the ball that it was difficult for the Crew to get into space. There's a reason that the result looked like a reversal of many of Colorado's results last season -- Columbus outshot the Rapids by almost 20, but nearly all of those chances were subpar or from outside the box.
Colorado wasn't exactly playing a counterattacking game, but they weren't pressing particularly hard either until the Crew got into the final third. Having Martin Rivero in his first start all season didn't hurt matters, as the Rapids were able to get the good possession they needed when they got the ball in the midfield. Rivero, as we predicted, was an absolute boon to the team up at the top of the shifty midfield. He held the ball like a platypus protecting his young, attempted very smart passes and drew a ton of fouls that led to decent Rapids chances.
With the gameplan working to perfection, all the Rapids needed was to add a second and seal the deal, lest they allow in a late heartbreaker. Fortunately, they got it in the 69th minute. After Colorado's only corner of the game, the Rapids earned a set piece just a few feet ahead of the corner flag. It wasn't a bad one from Martin Rivero, and the bouncing ball in the box deflected off of Deshorn Brown and onto the waiting foot of Dillon Powers. His shot was deflected as it hit the back of the net, but it was still counted as a Powers goal, his second of the season.
Columbus never looked like they were going to get back into it after that.
First win at Crew Stadium since 2004, first two-goal victory of the season and another, very well earned, clean sheet? Yes, yes and yes. Perhaps there's hope going into San Jose next week.