COMMERCE CITY, Colo. --- Jeff Larentowicz had a pretty tough week at the office, but he’ll enjoy the rest of his weekend after the Colorado Rapids ended up comfortable winners over the Portland Timbers in the season opener Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The Rapids’ midfielder was involved in a serious car accident on Wednesday which necessitated him wearing a neck brace. That came after he fractured his thumb against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Rapids’ final preseason game last weekend, and amid concerns over a tight hamstring which caused him to miss some training in the build-up to Saturday’s opener.
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But Larentowicz’s goal in the eight minute not only helped put some of the week behind him, but also calmed some of the Rapids’ jitters as they began the defense of their MLS Cup title. The midfielder smashed the ball in from close range after Omar Cummings refused to give up on a ball which appeared to be going out of play close to the corner flag.
The Jamaican’s persistence allowed him to cross the ball in quickly and it broke very kindly for a grateful Larentowicz.
“It was good,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com after the game. “I wanted to put Wednesday behind me and move on. The thumb thing will stick with me for a little while. It hurts, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with.”
Larentowicz, who spent six weeks with his arm in a cast during the 2009 season with the New England Revolution, said the 3-1 win may not have been as comfortable at times as the score line suggests.
It took Jamie Smith’s fantastic long-range strike in the 30th minute to eventually calm any nerves, he said.
Smith, who finished the game in the center of midfield after captain Pablo Mastroeni was substituted midway through the second half, unleashed a screamer from 25 yards which smashed into the Portland net off the underside of the crossbar.
The goal, which effectively finished off any resistance from Portland, was described by Timbers’ head coach, John Spencer, as “world class.”
Smith said he was as happy that his fellow Scottsman had described his goal in such a way as he was to have scored it.
“I watched John play growing up as a kid,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “I’ve never met him but, from what I gather, he’s a great guy and I’m pretty honored he said that.”
Smith’s goal topped a dominant performance by the Rapids in the opening half-hour. Larentowicz’s goal was followed in the 29th minute by a Cummings right foot strike from inside the penalty area. The Jamaican, who will miss the Rapids’ next game against Chivas because of international duty, latched onto a Conor Casey headed flick to first shoot with his left foot.
The ball rebounded kindly off Portland goalkeeper Adin Brown and Cummings was able to finish easily. It is the first time in MLS history that a player has scored a goal in his club’s season opener four straight years.
Rapids head coach Gary Smith praised Cummings’s play and that of the back line, especially centerbacks Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne.
“That front two were lively, they are a threat,” he said. “Drew and Marv, the middle two in general, were terrific. They kept an exciting pairing quiet.”
“I was pleased to hear the final whistle and delighted to have the three points,” Smith added. “Portland will be disappointed tonight but they will get better and better. I was pleased to get the second and third goals and offer the fans something to get behind.”