The Colorado Rapids had never won on the road in a season opener before Friday night’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA. A sublime second-half strike from Omar Cummings capped a fine performance from the Rapids to turn that stat upside down and allow Colorado to leave California with three points.
Considering the make-up of the team -- with new acquisition Marvell Wynne playing a full 90 only a day after joining the team and a number of would-be starters sitting out because of injury -- this was a more-than-encouraging victory.
There was the predictable last 10 to 15 minutes of scramble and pressure from Chivas USA, but the new center back pairing of Drew Moor and Wynne, together with Kosuke Kimura and an increasingly exhausted Danny Earls, repelled all that was thrown at them. In the end, the Rapids deserved their victory.
"I'm very pleased, of course, to get some points on the board," head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com over the phone after the match. "I have to give credit to the debutants. Danny Earls was away from home and under a lot of pressure but he played very well. Marvell was outstanding at center back. He had a five-hour flight, a three-hour time difference and played out of position. I think he was the difference between us getting some points and not. He recovered very well on two or there occasions when mere mortals wouldn't have got there."
So many times in recent franchise history have the Rapids played well and then succumbed to pressure, particularly on the road. This time, the team was able to keep everything at bay and the fact that it happened in the opening game of the season will be a huge morale booster for the squad.
Major bonus points:
• Jeff Larentowicz played hard through a whole 90 minutes and looked very accomplished in the midfield.
• Mehdi Ballouchy, whose position appeared under threat with the arrival of new midfield players like Larentowicz, had one of his best games in a Rapids shirt, working well both offensively and defensively.
• Wynne showed speed and strong physical presence throughout.
• Drew Moor marshaled the defense superbly in the absence of Julien Baudet.
• Colin Clark, whose presence in the game increased throughout, got in almost 80 minutes after his season-ending injury last year.
• Pablo Mastroeni played very well until being subbed halfway through the second half.
• Much better local television coverage in the Denver area, even though we ended up watching a home-insulation commercial as the second half got under way.
• Good professional experience for Ross LaBaeux, who may be called upon a lot this season for bit part roles. Almost set up Conor Casey for a chance to put the game beyond reach late on.
Things to look at:
• Matt Pickens tended to overpunch his way out of trouble when he should maybe have caught. Otherwise, he was very solid and brave.
• Danny Earls looked exhausted for the last 20 minutes or so. Looks a bit one-footed but that never stopped Ashley Cole from having an international career. Still, Earls was very solid in his opening MLS game and looks a good replacement for Jordan Harvey.
• Cummings’ finish was sublime. He could have taken more time with some of his crossing.
• The extent of any injury for Mastroeni.