Pablo Mastroeni grabbed Conor Casey in a bear hug at the end of yesterday's game because he knows how valuable the striker is to the Colorado Rapids and he was grateful to the big fella that he can go and attend MNT camp knowing that his team are very well set after yesterday's victory in New York. Mastroeni will miss next week's game against Real Salt Lake on US duty but he can have some confidence that the Rapids can go to Rio Tinto and get something next week. It's hard to overstate the importance of Casey and everyone is praying that his good health and good form continue because the Rapids are still shallow when it comes to forward depth. What if Casey does get called up for the US? Surely, he must be in consideration for the Confederations' Cup or Gold Cup squads, at the very least. Matt Pickens is another who has no doubt been in national team coaches' minds and let's hope yesterday's almost inexplicable error that led to the second NY goal will not be overstated. Let's not forget his great save in the opening minute that could have seen Angel give the Red Bulls an immediate lead.
I think the Rapids played much better against Seattle last week, at least in terms of attacking football. But they made the most of not a great defensive opposition yesterday to deserve the 3-2 victory. Yes, the penalty was a bit debatable but so was the one given to NY. A return yesterday to pretty poor officiating. I loved the tenacity of the second goal which saw Colin Clark and Jordan Harvey battling for the ball when it seemed lost and Harvey delivering a nice pass to Omar Cummings who planted a great cross onto Casey's head. Cummings continues to struggle in front of the net but his assist play is so good this season and his time to score will come. Expect large smiles on that Jamaican face when he does. I can't really think of a better strike partnership in MLS right now.
I talked yesterday and last week of the problems in communication about how to protect a lead. Gary Smith then shocks us all with using Terry Cooke as a sub when the Rapids are 3-2 up only to return to form by replacing Cummings with Greg Dalby who is really the equivalent of a closing pitcher in baseball. Just comes on at the end to wrap everything up.
Other notable happenings included another solid performance from Mehdi Ballouchy - good to see him get the penalty. He does do a lot more work than people generally give him credit for and fully deserves his place in the team. More of a burden will fall on him next week when Mastroeni will be absent. Nick LaBrocca ran everywhere and was in the penalty area thwarting a last minute attack from the Red Bulls as they tried for an equalizer.
An impressive victory that leaves the Rapids just a point behind Seattle with a game in hand.