Rapids Miss Playoff-Clinching Opportunity at Dallas

FRISCO Texas (From MLS and Rapids Reports) - In what was all but a must-win game for both clubs FC Dallas got goals from a pair of defenders for a 2-1 victory against the Colorado Rapids at Pizza Hut Park. FCD got goals from George John in the fourth minute and Ugo Ihemelu in the 66th before the Rapids got their lone goal from Pat Noonan in the 71st minute.
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With the win FCD kept their dramatic postseason charge alive into the season's final week. FCD travel to face the playoff-bound Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field next Saturday one of four teams tied with 39 points for eighth place overall and the final wild card spot. The Rapids travel to Real Salt Lake next Saturday as those two teams will once again play in the final game of the season with a playoff berth on the line Colorado in seventh place overall with 40 points three ahead of RSL.
After closing practice to the public and media for the entire week Schellas Hyndman's FC Dallas club came out playing inspired soccer from the opening whistle. FCD forward Jeff Cunningham who leads Major League Soccer with 17 goals had a chance in the opening minute of play that led to a corner kick.
Van den Bergh's first corner was booted high by FCD midfielder Daniel Hernandez from just outside the box. However the Dutch international's second service of the night just three minutes later ended with his 11th assist of the year.
After Colorado defender Cory Gibbs upended FCD midfielder Atiba Harris just outside the box and earned a yellow card from referee Edvin Jurisevic for his infraction Van den Bergh then took the resulting free kick from about 22 yards out. John headed the ball squarely into the back of the net his first MLS goal in the 15th game of his professional career. It was also the earliest goal of the season for FCD.
Even after taking the early edge the home club kept their foot on the gas. In the seventh minute Van den Bergh delivered another well-placed corner. Dax McCarty was on the receiving end this time and his nearly perfect header was denied by Colorado goalkeeper Preston Burpo with a diving save at the last possible moment.
In the 10th minute Cunningham nearly connected with David Ferreira to make it 2-0. The veteran scorer displayed some great individual effort to gain possession in the right corner. Cunningham then crossed it into the heart of the box where Ferreira slid just as he struck the ball sending it wide left by mere inches.
Hyndman employed the same first 11 that defeated San Jose 2-1 last Wednesday at Buck Shaw Stadium. Colorado head coach Gary Smith made two changes to his starting lineup from last week's 1-1 draw with New England. Gibbs who last started on August 30 against Houston replaced Julien Baudet who was ejected from last week's game while Pat Noonan replaced an injured Mehdi Ballouchy in the midfield.
However after their initial volley the FCD attack fell silent. In the middle part of the half the Rapids controlled the run of play but had little to show for their efforts. Omar Cummings who has eight goals for Colorado had three shots in the opening half while teammate Conor Casey second in MLS with 16 goals had no shots in the first 45 minutes.
FCD outshot the Rapids 9-6 in the first half and Cunningham led the way with three shots while Ferreira had two. Two of FCD's efforts were on frame compared to none by the visitors.
Colorado's continuing road struggles weren't surprising considering the club hasn't won away from Commerce City since a 3-2 win at New York on May 30. Since then the Rapids are 0-4-4 on the road and have been outscored 14-7 in those games.
Just after the break Ferreira came out firing once again with a blast from about 30 yards out that forced Burpo into full extension to save.
In the 49th minute Ferreira and Cunningham looked to connect once again. The speedy Colombian dashed up the left flank before executing a nice cross to Cunningham who was streaking into the Rapids' area. The veteran striker was unable to strike the ball cleanly and saw his shot go wide right.
Colorado had one of their best chances of the night to draw things level in the 54th. Like he has done so many times this year Cummings set things up beautifully this time for Noonan who connected for a hard blast that went wide left.
Then in the 66th Ihemelu found the back of the net for the first time since joining FCD in early September from Colorado. McCarty started things with a free kick from about 35 yards out. Atiba Harris rose above a crowd of players inside the box to head the ball toward the far post where Ihemelu was waiting.
Ihemelu's right-footed shot caromed off Burpo before hitting the post and then crossing the goal line. Ihemelu was playing his first game against the Rapids who traded him to FCD for Drew Moor on August 31.
However the home team didn't get to savor their two-goal cushion for long as Noonan drew one back in the 71st. A slide tackle by FCD's Daniel Hernandez from Colorado's Nick LaBrocca actually knocked the ball to the feet of Noonan. The veteran midfielder dribbled a few feet and made his way around Ihemelu before knocking a shot into the right side of the net for his third goal of the year and second with the Rapids.
In the 79th minute FCD nearly put the game out of reach when left back Jair Benitez delivered a great cross inside the box that Cunningham was unable to convert. And one minute later Ferreira missed a goal by mere inches when his shot struck the left post.
Steve Hunt is a contributor to MLSnet.com.
Rapids AT&T Man of the Match: Pat Noonan
Scoring:
DAL- John (van den Bergh) 4
DAL- Ihemelu (Harris McCarty) 66
COL- Noonan (unassisted) 71
Colorado Rapids: Preston Burpo Drew Moor Cory Gibbs (Michael Holody 63) Scott Palguta (Ross Schunk 87) Kosuke Kimura Nick LaBrocca Pablo Mastroeni Pat Noonan Jordan Harvey Conor Casey (Facundo Diz 69) Omar Cummings
Substitutes Not Used: Greg Dalby Ty Harden Matt Pickens Rob Valentino
FC Dallas: Dario Sala Heath Pearce Ugo Ihemelu George John Jair Benitez Atiba Harris Daniel Hernandez Dax McCarty Dave van den Bergh (Marvin Chavez 87) Jeff Cunningham (Brek Shea 90) David Ferreira
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Avila Ray Burse Kyle Davies Andre Rocha Blake Wagner
Misconduct:
COL- Gibbs (caution; Reckless Tackle) 3
DAL- Hernandez (caution; Reckless Tackle) 51
DAL- McCarty (caution; Reckless Tackle) 58
DAL- Sala (caution; Dissent) 62
DAL- John (caution; Tactical Foul) 75
COL- LaBrocca (caution; Tactical Foul) 78
COL- Holody (caution; Reckless Tackle) 82
DAL- Harris (caution; Reckless Tackle) 85
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner; Paul Scott
Fourth official: Ben Chouaf
Attendance: 15243