The Colorado Rapids came out hot, with two shots in the first one minute, setting the tone for the entire game. It was a hard fought game for both sides, but when it came down to it, the Rapids dominated the LA Galaxy in (almost) all the statistics that matter.
The turning point of the game came in the 36th minute. Howard threw the ball to Eric Miller at midfield, who then passed it to Sam Cronin. Cronin passed it to Shkelzen Gashi, who one-touched it around 40 YARDS OUT AND BLASTS A GASHI BOMB past Brian Rowe. It hit the side post and then went in.
The Rapids went up 1-0, making the aggregate 1-1.
In the post-game press conference, Bruce Arena said “maybe if our goalkeeper’s technique’s a little better, he has a chance of making the save.” Meanwhile, Pablo Mastroeni told the press that Gashi’s pace and strike makes it “extremely difficult for the goalkeepers.”
From there on, both sides had some good chances. Jelle Van Damme was probably the best player on the pitch today. At the end of the first half, Gashi collided with Ashley Cole and went down. He was carried off the field and Marlon Hairston subbed in for him at the beginning of the second half. Gashi is getting an MRI tomorrow, so hopefully it all goes well.
Mark Geiger did a decent job of reffing the game in the first half, but the second half was not so good. He overrode the assistant referee on a couple situations, and missed a pretty serious foul by Van Damme on Dominique Badji around the 65th minute.
At the end of full time, though, the score was Rapids 1, Galaxy 0, with an aggregate score of 1-1. Overtime was a whole new ball game.
The LA Galaxy was obviously tired, and the Rapids were tired, too, but managed to keep up the attack. Despite their best efforts, it remained tied after two overtime periods. Again, both teams had chances, including an amazing header by Badji that unfortunately went right to Rowe. Brian Rowe also had a diving header clearance that was super impressive. But it was going to come down to penalty kicks.
Normally, I don’t like it when games come down to PKs, but this was the most exciting game I’ve ever been to. I also felt 100% confident that Howard was going to make at least one save.
And you all know we won, but Tim Howard had not one but TWO SAVES (which was also good enough to earn him a starting spot on the USMNT squad for the upcoming match vs. Mexico). Giovani dos Santos pulled a Lionel Messi and shot it way over the goal. Everyone from the Rapids took care of business, and Pablo later said he felt very confident about the experience that the Rapids were putting on the field to take these penalty shots.
Badji, Jared Watts, and Jermaine Jones all received yellow cards last week, while Gashi and Sam Cronin picked up one each today. As a reminder, two yellows in a single game, or two yellows in any of the two following games results in a next game suspension: Knockout Round, Conference Semifinal Leg 1, Conference Semifinal Leg 2, Conference Championship Leg 1. If a player earns a second yellow in the Conference Championship Leg 2, he is still eligible to play in the MLS Cup Final, and yellow card accumulation resets in the final.