Cunningham Hat Trick Helps Rapids to 3-1 Win Over Chivas USA

CARSON CA (Colorado Rapids Media Relations)- The Colorado Rapids rode a hat trick by forward Jeff Cunningham to capture tonight their first road win of the 2005 season defeating Chivas USA 3-1 at The Home Depot Center.

(To view video highlights from this match CLICK HERE).

The win sent the Black & Blue to fourth place in the Western Conference with 14 points three more than Real Salt Lake (11 pts.) and eight more than Chivas USA (6 pts.).

Kyle Beckerman and Jean Philippe Peguero combined in the seventh minute to create the first scoring opportunity for the Rapids. Beckerman filtered a ball with advantage to Peguero at the top of the penalty area in a quick breakaway but the Haitian international's shot landed directly in goalkeeper Brad Guzan's hands.

Chivas' first scoring opportunity came 12 minutes later when midfielder Jesus Ochoa's shot from 20 yards out went just inches over Joe Cannon's goal.

Another long-distance shot from Antonio Martinez in the 27th minute found its way into the stands after hitting the Rapids crossbar.

Jeff Cunningham netted the first strike of the day for the Rapids in the 30th minute when he beat Guzan from 22 yards out. Cunnigham received a pass from forward Luchi Gonzalez outside the penalty area that gave him enough space to take a step forward and send a powerful shot to the upper left corner of Chivas' goal. The shot beat Guzan who seemed to almost reach the ball but was unable to deflect it.

(Cunningham was later voted the MLS Player of the Week for his efforts; to read that story CLICK HERE).

The most dangerous opportunity of the first half for the home team came in the 35th minute when defender Ricky Lewis attempted to clear a cross from Hector Cuadros inside the penalty area. Lewis' header hit Cannon's crossbar and bounced back into the field before being cleared by defenseman Mike Petke.

Alain Nkong's shot from outside Chivas' penalty area in the 52nd minute found Guzan well-positioned to make a diving save. Nkong received a pass from Cunnigham on a quick Rapids counterattack just outside the home team's box. The Cameroonian international's powerful shot went directly into the goalkeeper's hands.

Chivas responded with yet another ball to the crossbar of the Rapids' goal in the 55th minute when substitute striker Matt Taylor broke free from his defender. Taylor's shot had Cannon beat but the crossbar was there for the second time to save the visiting team.

A well-taken free kick in the 56th minute by Rapids defender Eric Denton from 25 yards out flew just inches wide from Guzan's upper left corner.

Nkong again broke free from his defender in a quick counterattack in the 58th minute but saw his shot go wide from Chivas' goal after his 40-yard sprint.

Cunnigham netted his seventh goal of the season in the 62nd minute when he beat Guzan to his right post. The Jamaican-born forward received a perfect pass from Peguero at the top of the small area where he controlled the ball before unleashing a powerful shot that found the back of the net.

Cunningham came close to netting a hat trick in the 66th minute when his penalty kick was saved by Guzan. Chivas defender Armando Begines brought him down inside of the penalty area after Cunningham had dribbled his way past two defenders in yet another Rapids quick breakaway causing the referee to whistle the penalty kick. Cunningham took the PK low and to Guzan's left post but the Chivas goalkeeper was able to get down and make the save.

Cunningham finally netted his third of the night in the 78th minute when he received a long throw-in from substitute defender Dan Gargan that caught the Chivas backline by surprise. Cunnigham carried the ball 15 yards before beating Guzan to his lower left corner with a soft but well-placed shot.

The three goals made Cunnigham the third player in Colorado Rapids club history to record a hat trick. Amazingly consdiering Cunningham's history in the league this was also the first time he had ever notched 3 goals in one game. The feat also made him the new MLS league-leading goalscorer. His great play tonight and on Wednesday also earned him four goals in four days making him a strong contender for Major League Soccer's Player of the Week.

Thiago Martins netted the lone goal for the home team in the 83rd minute from the penalty spot after an handball in the Rapids box by Lewis. Martins beat Cannon to his left post to net his personal third goal of the season.

The Rapids next return to Colorado where they will host FC Dallas this Saturday June 25th at 7:00 p.m. (MT) at INVESCO Field at Mile High. The game will feature free Rapids Season X lapel pins for the first 5000 fans as well as a presentation of the Rapids Team of the Decade at halftime.

Colorado Rapids (3-8-2) vs. CD Chivas USA (1-9-3)
June 18 2005 -- The Home Depot Center

Colorado Rapids Man of the Match: Jeff Cunningham

Scoring Summary:
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 6 (Luchi Gonzalez 2) 30'
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 7 (Jean Philippe Peguero 2) 62'
COL -- Jeff Cunningham 8 (Dan Gargan 1) 78'
CHV -- Thiago Martins 3 (penalty kick) 83'

Lineups:

COL- Joe Cannon Ricky Lewis (Amir Lowery 90) Nat Borchers Mike Petke Eric Denton Alain Nkong Kyle Beckerman Leo Cullen Luchi Gonzalez (Dan Gargan 78) Jeff Cunningham (Wolde Harris 82) Jean Philippe Peguero.

SUBS NOT USED: Byron Foss Ritchie Kotschau.

TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Jeff Cunningham 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Jeff Cunningham 4); FOULS: 22 (Mike Petke 5); OFFSIDES: 0; CORNER KICKS: 4 (Eric Denton 3); SAVES: 0

CHV- Brad Guzan Ezra Hendrickson Douglas Sequeira Armando Begines Jesus Ochoa (Ryan Suarez 60) Hector Cuadros Antonio Martinez (Arturo Torres 46) Ramon Ramirez Francisco Mendoza Thiago Martins Isaac Romo.

SUBS NOT USED- Esteban Arias Francisco Gomez Orlando Perez Martin Zuniga.

TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Thiago Martins 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Thiago Martins 1); FOULS: 12 (4 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Douglas Sequeira 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Ramon Ramirez 3); SAVES: 3 (Brad Guzan 3)

Misconduct Summary:
COL -- Kyle Beckerman (caution; Pushing Holding) 40
CHV -- Armando Begines (caution; Pushing Holding) 65
COL -- Ricky Lewis (caution; Deliberate Handball) 83

Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: Greg Barkey; Emiliano Monje
4th Official: Jorge Reyes
Weather: Clear-and-75-degrees
Attendance: 10114