COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Conor Casey may have created headlines with his two penalty-kick goals in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Toronto FC. But the crucial moment in the game was the 70th-minute free kick by Jeff Larentowicz, which deservedly restored Colorado’s lead and made the game comfortable for the home team.
Before that moment, the Rapids had looked jittery after allowing Toronto back into a game in which the visitors rarely featured offensively. Toronto had only four shots all game but equalized on a Dwayne De Rosario penalty kick.
Larentowicz’s cheeky free kick restored some balance and confidence to the Colorado ranks.
“At that point, the game had gone flat,” said Rapids head coach Gary Smith. “We looked disillusioned and disappointed, but suddenly everyone raised their game and went into another gear. The changes helped enormously. All in all, it was a very good goal. It was a terrific free kick.”
Julian De Guzman appeared to jump out of the wall, one of which Toronto head coach Preki said his designated player shouldn't even have been part. The ball slid into the gap left by de Guzman as Toronto’s goalkeeper, Stefan Frei, remained rooted to the spot.
Larentowicz said he hadn't been studying any tapes of Toronto FC free kicks but he did realize that a space had opened up. The midfielder deflected the importance of that specific moment.
“We are still slightly feeling each other out,” he said of his new teammates. “We had some lineup changes. That speaks to our depth but it also speaks to the fact there is a wider range of players I need to be familiar with. We had good energy to stay on top and we were rewarded.”
Smith noted that while there were some disappointing final balls, there was improved wing play and better defensive work on set-pieces, still the only way Colorado has given up goals this season in MLS play.
“It was the first winning home game,” Smith said. “The players can move forward. After the disappointment against Kansas, we’ve had two very good wins. We showed good intensity going forward and I am very pleased how we defended as a group.”
With his two goals on Sunday, Casey now has 32 career strikes for Colorado, good for third on the club’s all-time list and just seven behind Paul Bravo at the top.
“I thought his general play was his best performance of the season by far,” Smith said of Casey. “He showed very good quality. He showed more intensity. He was physically more dominating. He was fantastic today.”
Casey’s brace came one day after Galaxy forward Edson Buddle scored two goals in a Galaxy victory and Herculez Gomez netted another two in Mexico on Sunday. The Rapids front man now has three goals in 2010, all from the spot kick.
“It would be nice to get one from the run of play but we’ve got three points today,” Casey said. “I think we as a team were able to play the ball more around today. I had more touches with my feet today. When we can combine like that, it benefits me and the team more and I felt a lot better about it.”