Casey and Cummings return leads to big win

Forward duo made first appearance together in nearly a full year vs Portland

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – For the Colorado Rapids, Saturday night was time to party like it was 2010.

For the first time in nearly a full calendar year, the star strike force of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey were on the field together, and it resulted in perhaps the Rapids’ most complete performance of the season in a 3-0 dismantling of the Portland Timbers at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The last time the two shared the field before tonight was July 16, 2011.

Casey banged in Colorado’s second goal of the night on a 22nd-minute header and recorded four shots on goal, while Cummings had a shot on goal himself and proved to be a constant nuisance for the Portland defense.

Casey on big win over Portland

So what’s the biggest difference now for the Rapids with Cummings and Casey back in the fold?

“We have two natural strikers,” Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “Tony [Cascio] is not really a striker up there, trying to do things he’s not known to do. But Conor and Omar, they do it well, and they know that that’s their job.”

Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja switched to a 4-4-2 formation on Saturday to help fit Casey and Cummings, who have tag-teamed injuries since Casey ruptured his Achilles last July 16 in a game against Seattle.

But despite the auspicious debut, there were signs for concern. Cummings – who nearly didn’t play Saturday night with a tight left quad that flared up on Friday – hobbled off the field in the 74th minute with ankle pain, and both players said afterwards there is still plenty of work to be done.

“It wasn’t our best game,” Cummings told MLSsoccer.com. “I think maybe some shots on goal, we didn’t take as many shots as we should. But we got enough chances in front of goal where we scored some chances.”

But all in all, the duo simply did night what they’ve been expected to do since leading the Rapids to MLS Cup 2010 – score goals, and plenty of them.

“They’re getting there,” Pareja said. “I thought Omar was great tonight because he’s still carrying a bit of pain in his ankle and you can tell sometimes he doesn’t feel 100 percent comfortable. But he came and did the job, and the same with Conor.

“Conor is getting all those moves and the timing with the other players as well, and Conor has not played much with a couple of the guys that came this year. So, all those things made me think that we keep growing. We keep growing with them.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.