Acting head coach Gary Smith punched the air as the referee blew for the 90 minutes. It sure was mighty relief for the Colorado Rapids organization and their fans that the team finally managed to score some goals and eke out a win against a frequently dangerous Kansas City side. This was not a match the Rapids dominated in any shape or form but the defense was sound, the midfield created more chances than of late and Conor Casey worked his socks off to help secure the win with two priceless goals. One of these, naturally, came from a perfect Terry Cooke cross. Cooke crossed absolutely perfectly about three of four times in the first half and a goal could have come from any one of those crosses. As it was, the Rapids went into half-time a goal apiece having played the offside trap fairly poorly and finally allowing Kansas to get behind the defense and equalize. A combination of poor Kansas defense and strong play by Casey saw the big striker net a second right after the break but the Rapids failed to push home their advantage and Kansas could have scored two or three times later in the second half. Thankfully, the Rapids held on to their lead to secure their first win since July 4.
It was a curious line-up. Preston Burpo started in goal so maybe Smith was resting Bouna Coundoul who is probably now close to Libya with the Senegal national team. Bouna is expected to be back for the DC game next week. Burpo, apart from the occasional problem with crosses, played very solidly and could do little with the Kansas goal. Thankfully, he pulled off a great point blank save immediately after the Rapids had opened with Casey's header, a crucial save at that juncture of the match. There was no Christian Gomez (out injured?) and Smith appeared to start up front with Ballouchy and Jacob Peterson playing just behind Casey. As expected, Mike Petke and debutant Cory Gibbs made up the central defense in a back four. The midfield just seems stronger when Pablo Mastroeni and Nick LaBrocca are working in tandem. They were both dominant last night, particularly Mastroeni who barely put a foot wrong, seemed to win every 50/50 ball and almost scored from one of those Cooke crosses in the first half. That would have been a nice birthday present for the midfelder who will be with the US national team in Guatemala this week for a World Cup qualifier.
There is still a lot to work on. We cannot seem to make enough penetrating runs into space to get behind the defense. Our main route to goal still looks like Cooke to Casey. And our defense can look very vulnerable to such penetrating runs from the opposition. However, a win is a win and hopefully it will give the team some confidence going into a tough three-game stretch away from home.