Sunday, April 12, 2009

Rapids Take Another Step Forward

Another big step on the road to playing with real confidence. The Colorado Rapids picked up a brave point away at Columbus, riding their luck against the defending MLS champions, especially in the closing minutes, but coming away with a precious 1-1 draw courtesy of a Conor Casey equalizer in the 82nd minute. Casey took his chance very well following a nice pass over the top of the defense from Pablo Mastroeni. Casey and Omar Cummings, who posed plenty of challenges all night for the Crew defense, are really establishing themselves as a very fine attacking partnership.
Coach Gary Smith sprung a surprise or two with the starting line-up, relegating Kosuke Kimura to the bench and playing Ty Harden in central defense with Cory Gibbs and moving Ugo Ihemelu out to the right. In truth, this was an option that Smith had readily discussed at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately, it did not last long in this game as Harden limped out with an injury within the first 20 minutes and was replaced by the inexperienced Scott Palguta. Palguta did well, forcing Alejandro Moreno out wide in the second half at one point and cutting down the angle for the dangerous striker. It makes perfect sense to try the experiment at this early stage because you don't want players coming in solely in emergencies and not having had any experience during the season. Kimura will play many times more for this team, of that you can be sure. Harden may not have had much time on the field but at least it did give the opportunity to Palguta who will surely be called upon again. In another slight surprise, Preston Burpo maintained the starting goalkeeper spot ahead of Matt Pickens who looks to be recovering from his back injury. It will be very interesting to see who plays in goal against Houston next week.
The Rapids will be mighty relieved after their game against Houston because it will mean the end of a big road trip and two home games in a row against LA and Real Salt Lake. If they can get something out of the Houston game next weekend, those two home games will look increasingly appealing.

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