Rapids Take Down First Place Dynamo

COMMERCE CITY CO (From MLSNet Reports) - Julien Baudet's header from a Mehdi Ballouchy corner kick for his first MLS goal proved to be the difference as the Colorado Rapids defeated Western Conference leaders Houston Dynamo 1-0 on Sunday afternoon at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Baudet leaned over Kei Kamara and sent his header inside the right post to give the Rapids the critical game-winner that put them into a three-way tie for fourth place in the Western Conference.
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Baudet was seeing his first action since breaking his forearm in a match against New York just more than a month earlier. He was a 12th-minute substitution for center back Cory Gibbs who was injured a couple of minutes earlier. Ballouchy also came off the bench in the first half substituting for Jamie Smith who left with a 34th-minute injury.
The Rapids hadn't beaten Houston since August 2007 and with three games in hand against the conference leaders Colorado can still entertain realistic hopes of making up the seven-point differential between themselves and the top of the table.
The Rapids got the best of Houston in the first half but walked off the field after 45 minutes with nothing to show for it. The game hinged on second half changes with Colorado looking to build on their two early substitutions.
After outshooting Houston 4-2 in the first half and failing to get a score off countless other opportunities Colorado were even more aggressive in the second half taking longer shots from outside the area with Jacob Peterson and Nick LaBrocca firing shots from 30 yards and taking advantage of a wide edge Colorado enjoyed on set pieces.
Peterson was in the thick of much of the first-half action around the Houston goal going one-on-one with goalkeeper Pat Onstad in the sixth minute before crossing a ball a little high for the oncoming Conor Casey. Two minutes later Cummings made a nice back pass to Peterson who lofted a ball to the center of the area where LaBrocca headed it on goal but had his shot easily scooped up by Onstad.
Peterson was applying pressure again in the 24th minute facing Onstad alone and shooting point blank from 10 yards but he didn't get a good contact on it and it went weakly to Onstad for the save.
Along with Peterson Omar Cummings contributed massively to the Rapids attack setting up numerous opportunities that the Rapids couldn't capitalize on. Cummings won a ball at midfield in the 36th minute and took it to the corner bringing it to the edge of the area before crossing it to a sliding Peterson right on the spot who just missed getting a foot on it. Ballouchy was there for the follow-up and sent it back in front of the goal but the Rapids couldn't get off a good shot.
When he wasn't crossing from the corner Cummings was wreaking havoc in the middle taking on three defenders at the top of the area in the 51st minute.
After Baudet put the Rapids up they had no intention of sitting back on a one-goal lead having watched three points slip away from them with a two-goal lead on the road against Chicago last week. Ballouchy missed by a hair in the 71st minute with one of the Rapids' best chances taking a cross from Cummings and one-timing it off the crossbar.
Jordan Harvey was shown a yellow card in the 43rd minute and Mastroeni saw one in the 64th with Houston's substitution Luis Angel Landin earning a 72nd-minute yellow card in an increasingly chippy match.
Then in the 86th minute Houston's Brad Davis was sent off tilting the scales decidedly in Colorado's favor for the final four minutes of play.
The Rapids responded with an immediate attack on goal with Pat Noonan getting a shot off from the top of the area that sailed high over the post.
Houston was kept from threatening in the Rapids' final third having only a couple clear opportunities throught the match. Kei Kamara had a first-half stoppage time shot a few yards from the goal but thanks to Kosuke Kimura's defensive persistence he was only able to head a light bouncer to Pickens for the easy save the only one credited to the Colorado goalkeeper on the day.
The Rapids return to action this coming Saturday night Sept. 5 with the first of a home-and-away series against Toronto FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Dynamo will have the international week off with their next league match coming Sept. 13 when they take on Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew on the road.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLSnet.com.
AT&T Rapids Man of the Match: Julien Baudet
Scoring Summary:
COL- Baudet (Ballouchy) 55
Lineups:
Houston Dynam Pat Onstad Andrew Hainault Bobby Boswell (Ryan Cochrane 46) Geoff Cameron Wade Barrett Brian Mullan (Luis Angel Landin 59) Ricardo Clark Stuart Holden Brad Davis Brian Ching Kei Kamara
Substitutes Not Used: Corey Ashe Mike Chabala Tally Hall Dominic Oduro Craig Waibel
Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens Kosuke Kimura Cory Gibbs (Julien Baudet 13) Ugo Ihemelu Jordan Harvey Jamie Smith (Mehdi Ballouchy 34) Nick LaBrocca Pablo Mastroeni Jacob Peterson Conor Casey Omar Cummings (Pat Noonan 74)
Substitutes Not Used: Preston Burpo Facundo Diz Michael Holody Rob Valentino
Disciplinary Report:
COL- Harvey (caution; Tactical Foul) 42
COL- Mastroeni (caution; Reckless Foul) 64
HOU- Landin (caution; Dissent) 72
HOU- Davis (ejection; Violent Conduct) 87
COL- Casey (caution; Delaying a Restart) 91+
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner Peter Manikowski
Fourth Official: Ben Chouaf
Attendance: 10897