Sunday, March 30, 2008

Youngsters Shine as Rapids Sink Galaxy

A sellout crowd, a beautiful Colorado evening and a performance to match. The Colorado Rapids ran out impressive winners 4-0 over the LA Galaxy, Beckham et al, in the season opener at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The England superstar duly made the trip and lasted the whole 90 minutes. He was impressive in the opening quarter of the game with some trademark crosses and setpieces but he and the whole team were totally deflated after the award of a dubious penalty kick for the Rapids in the 59th minute of the game, duly converted by new signing, Christian Gomez, to make it 2-0. After that, a combination of poor morale, altitude and relentless attacking by the Rapids saw off the Galaxy who now welcome a run of games at home in California. As Beckham and Galaxy coach, Ruud Gullit, repeatedly said at the post-match press conference, the penalty was the pivotal moment of the game. The players' spirits were sapped and the altitude drained them then of any remaining life. Omar Cummings and Colin Clarke made hay to score the remaining goals, this after Man of the Match, Terry Cooke, had opened the scoring for the Rapids in the tenth minute with a belter of a shot from the right side of the penalty area after Christian Gomez had rattled the post from further out.
Cooke, who for much of last season looked frustrated and maybe a bit lost, was absolutely outstanding tonight and fully deserved his MoM award. I think his partnership with the very offensively minded Jose Burciaga will do wonders for his confidence. He must have relished putting one over his old teammate Beckham. The two duly swapped shirts at the final whistle as they no doubt reminisced over their days in the Manchester United youth team.
All the big stars aside, though, it was the Colorado youngsters who really impressed tonight. Keel and Kimura were epic at the heart of the defense where Bouna Coundoul showed impressive bravery a number of times and managed to keep the attacking threats of Donovan and Ruiz at bay. As coach Clavijo said, there were seven players out there whom you could class as rookies given the Rapids' injury problems and they all acquitted themselves outstandingly well. One special mention also to sub Ciaran O'Brien who came on in the 70th minute for Christian Gomez, played his heart out and was sent off in the final moments of the game for a poor but unmalicious tackle on Ruiz who proceeded to make a drama out of a crisis. Beckham was manful enough to say that O'Brien should not have been sent off for the tackle; it was clearly a yellow card at most. I'm not a big fan of supporters cheering their ejected players but, in this case, such support was fully deserved. O'Brien may only be slight of figure but his tackling and heart were a joy to watch and he should not have been sent off. He will have a great season if he plays like that every time.
So, nice work all around by the team which now goes to Kansas City April 5 for their next game against the Wizards.


johncos said...

Nick, it was a pleasure to meet you and your family at the game last night. It was a great evening to be a Rapids fan. I was curious as to your take on how Fernando Clavijo managed the match. As I watched the game on the DVR this morning the announcers seemed do give the Rapids players and FC ample credit for the impressive performance. I have to admit that I haven't been much of a Clavijo fan, but matching Kimura's speed on Donovan was perfect. And the aggressive energy of LaBrocca and DiRaimondo seemed inspired the way they kept Galaxy Midfield hurried and off balance. So, do you see this as a Clavijo successes or was it just perhaps a sort of default lineup and strategy based on all the injuries? I figure I am so willing to blame FC when things go wrong, that I might as well give him a pat on the back when things go as right as they did against the Gals.

Allen said...

Hands down the best blog post on the Rapids I've read in a long, long, long, long, long time.

To play off of johncos question, do you feel Clavijo actually did anything to adjust the Rapids tactics and approach at half-time? For a big chunk of the 1st half the seemed to disappear and let the Galaxy run the show.

Khutso said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Khutso said...

Hard to disagree with Allen there, and I'm not even much of a Rapids/soccer fan. Great job, Nick!

Hey, at least Channel 2 News recognized the importance of the event. Feel better?

Joey said...

Great post. I thought it was a terrific way to inaugurate the season. The Rapids midfield looked strong; they made some timely switches of the field, put together some nice short passes, and pressed forward and tracked back with energy. Hopefully the great performance by the young guys means Jovan Kirovski's services will not be needed. I also loved the offensive-minded attitude of left back Jose Burciaga, he seems to be a nice addition. Looking forward to seeing what Rafael Gomes can deliver, too. Omar Cummings had a nice day, his speed was a threat to LA. I'm curious to see whether FC will incorporate another forward to complement (and spell) Cummings, or whether the team's going to emphasize midfield play and only run a single man up top.

Nick Thomas said...

Thanks guys for all the comments; very much appreciated and please do spread the word. I am both a season ticket holder and have media credentials so I will be covering nearly all the home games (am away for a part of the season) and even some of the away ones hopefully.
I'm not sure how much praise we can give to Clavijo. As I said, some of the performances of the younger guys were just fantastic and some of them were definitely in there because of the injury crisis. However, he had the courage to play them and I think that it is a new season and we should get behind him. I won't be afraid to criticize when I think it is due but I do like the look of this team and I think the coach has something to do with that. He has made some astute signings in the offseason. We can't get too carried away with one victory (and let us not forget just how awful the LA Galaxy were, especially in defense). However, we cannot complain about this start.
Thanks again and please do check back. I'll be writing on a more regular basis now that the season has started and will really appreciate your comments. Nick.