Well, it could have been a first eleven. With a defense featuring Bouna, Ihemelu, Burciaga and Erpen and a midfield consisting of DiRaimondo, Peterson, Christian Gomez and Dalby, the Colorado Rapids fielded a very strong reserve team today in a straightforward 3-0 victory over visiting Dallas. I only counted two Dallas players that I recognized from the recent Rapids win down there. Ciaran O'Brien, who did play in that opening win against LA, along with Tim Ward and Nico Colaluca, who scored two of the goals today, rounded out the starting eleven. New signing, Kwame Sarkodie, got a run out in the second half and played well, the highlight being a mazy run down the left to set up the third goal.
There has been some criticism that some players left out of the first team have not looked up to the challenge of getting their starting places back. I didn't see much evidence here. Bouna was outstanding in goal. He didn't have a whole lot to do but, when he did, he pulled off some typically athletic saves including a brilliant and courageous dive to stop an indirect free kick opportunity just yards from goal. Christian Gomez orchestrated a number of the attacks and finished very well for the second goal. Facundo Erpen was another who charged around the pitch and seemed to enjoy the second half freedom he had playing just ahead of the back four.
These players - Bouna, Gomez and Erpen - will continue to be in the core group that makes up the 18 destined to launch the final push to the playoffs. Whether they will get back in the starting eleven is another question. Gary Smith confirmed that he likes the settled nature of the current first team and he has good reason to do so. There seems little reason to change something that is not broken and which has momentum. That's hard luck on a lot of players including the likes of Bouna, Erpen and Gomez as well as others such as Ihemelu and Burciaga but, as always, it is the team that counts first. So, expect no changes for this weekend's game against New England. I spoke briefly to Mike Petke after the game and he is fully expecting to be available after limping out in the second half against Chicago. Smith said the team is going to need a minimum of nine points from the remaining six games to challenge for a playoff spot. That does include three games at home but they are against very tough opposition in New England, Houston and rivals Salt Lake. Two wins and a draw would be nice, I would say. That would leave at least two points in the three games against New York, LA and Chivas. I get the feeling Smith is targeting an unexpected win against the Galaxy, which would really help the cause. He knows they score a lot but I think he believes we have the better players overall for that one. One game at a time, as they say.
P.S. Former Rapid and recently waived Crew player, Niko Hernandez, was among the "crowd" watching the game today with his very young family. Did he hear about Herc's move to Kansas and think there may be a need for a backup striker?