The Colorado Rapids look a very settled team. Something has happened since the coaching change and the Rapids finally look like they have a rhythm and the personnel to keep that rhythm going all the way to the playoffs. The team emerged victorious yesterday, dousing the Chicago Fire with an own goal and a splendid individual effort by Omar Cummings, both goals coming in the first half. Despite some intense pressure from the Fire in the second half as they chased the game, the defense held firm and Preston Burpo had one of his best games in a Rapids shirt, including two vital saves in the dying minutes.
We certainly didn't dominate this game, especially in the second half, but we took our chances when we needed to and everyone on the team contributed well. Burpo was given the Man of the Match award and he fully deserved that but, for me, the key was in Pablo Mastroeni dominating Blanco. Pablo was fitter, quicker to the ball and more alert than his Mexican counterpart and was just all over him for the whole game. Blanco, cheered by the very large Mexican contingent at yesterday's game every time he touched the ball (and alternatly booed by many Rapids' fans) did play one gorgeous pass behind the defense from where a cross came that was driven too hard for Brian McBride, but he was largely outplayed by Mastroeni. Pablo was equally a contender for MoM. There are some good comments in an MLS article from Gary Smith on Mastroeni and others' contributions (see below).
Cory Gibbs is looking a very sound buy for the Rapids. He was terrific in defense yesterday with one game-saving block at a dangerous time of the game when Chicago were threatening to cut into the Rapids' lead. Mike Petke was very solid and the full-backs defended resolutely and also played some nice attacking stuff, including Jordan Harvey's great running which led to the first goal on a bad handling mistake by the Chicago goalkeeper.
I really liked the way Gary Smith used the subs. It was very good to see Ugo Ihemelu and Mehdi Ballouchy back after their layoffs with concussion injuries. Conor Casey also got on for the last fifteen minutes or so. It looks as if this group of players, barring injury, will likely play the crucial role in the final six games of the regular season. Not good news for the other squad members including the increasingly isolated Christian Gomez and Bouna Coundoul.