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.