To keep their slim hopes of advancing in the CONCACAF Champions League alive, the Colorado Rapids were going to need to pull out a win in El Salvador against Isidro Metapan. They managed to pull it out despite playing what could only be called their 'C' team tonight, a team that featured two Rapids players making their debuts for the club as well as the assistant manager doing the coaching as manager Gary Smith didn't bother to make the trip.
The Rapids biggest story in the starting lineup was Eddie Ababio, the Rapids first round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina this season. The 18th overall pick got his first ever start - in fact his first ever appearance - for the club today against Metapan, starting in a winger position. Though Ababio is listed as a defender and played as such for UNC, he was always a fantastic attacker there. After scoring barrels of goals from the right back position in college, the Rapids clearly saw something in him offensively leading to his being picked.
In fact, it also made a difference as the game began.Ababio started the scoring in the game, getting the ball in the top corner of the 18 yard box and doing a cheeky little chip right into the inside of the far post, for a beautiful first goal on his debut. The game stayed on Colorado's foot - no playing back like they did against Real Espana today! - until the 32nd minute when a strange turn of events resulted in the referee calling the rarely seen 'Six Second violation' on Steward Ceus despite a Metapan player molesting him for several of those seconds.
The resulting free kick inside the 18 yard box was stuck in to make the game 1-1 and for a while it looked like this would be a vintage 2011 Rapids performance. Fortunately, the kids making up the team kept their wits about them and continued to calmly possess and attack. The strategy worked almost immediately after the second half began, as Quincy Amarikwa took a free kick from the side of the 18 and it dribbled past the keeper to make the score 2-1. It was a goal that just about everyone missed because of a replay on the screen at the time. Even the announcer on TV seemed surprised, which was probably the funniest thing I've seen in a football match in a while.
The Rapids continued the onslaught after Omar Cummings came on and brought a new burst of quality onto the pitch. He escaped the Metapan back line in the 77th minute off a slotted pass from Mike Holody, putting it away to close out the game. Right afterwards, Rapids academy player Davy Armstrong made his debut in the Burgundy and white as well playing central midfield.
Metapan now sit at six points to the Rapids seven after the loss, which leaves Colorado in charge of their own destiny. If they defeat Santos Laguna they will be into the next rounds, while a loss will all but doom them. Fortunately, we can say that Santos is a story for another day. Right now it's all about a Rapids victory, the first for the team in a good, long while.