COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Conor Casey’s first league goal in open play since last September was enough to separate the Colorado Rapids from the Seattle Sounders as they defeated their Western Conference foes, 1-0, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in front of a sell-out crowd of 18,116.
The Rapids striker picked up a ball from Omar Cummings in the 63rd minute, held off a challenge from Jeff Parke in the Seattle defense and then delicately chipped Kasey Keller in the Seattle goal. Casey, recently overlooked for the U.S. World Cup squad, last scored in open play against Toronto September 12. His six goals since then had all come from penalty kicks.
The game needed a bit of inspiration. It seemed the most interesting feature of the night would be the constant battle between Pablo Mastroeni and Freddie Ljungberg in the midfield. The two veterans were constantly at it, and it only seemed a matter of time before one of them would get sent off either for challenges on each other or for arguing with the referee.
Thankfully, Casey’s goal changed the momentum of the game and its focus. The Rapids continued to make good chances with both Mehdi Ballouchy and Omar Cummings going close. Chances for Seattle were limited, though Ljungberg did go extremely close with a neat free kick just over and wide of Matt Pickens in the Colorado goal. Steve Zakuani also had a good chance, but his fierce shot cannoned off the Colorado defense.
In the first half, chances were also scant for both teams. Colorado’s attack seemed to be largely limited to Cummings running dangerously down the right, but few chances were actually created.
Ljungberg also went close on a breakaway towards the end of the first half but was put under a lot of pressure from Marvell Wynne and skied his shot. Minutes earlier, Seattle probably had its best chance of the first half when Patrick Ianni shot very well from outside the penalty box, but his right-footed half-volley was well saved by Pickens.
It wasn’t as pretty as last season’s entertaining 2-2 draw between the teams in Colorado, but the Rapids will be delighted at pinching the victory over an always dangerous side and at improving their home record.
COL -- Conor Casey 4 (unassisted) 63
SEA -- Leo Gonzalez (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 46+
COL -- Pablo Mastroeni (caution; Tactical Foul) 48+
SEA -- Patrick Ianni (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 52
SEA -- Freddie Ljungberg (caution; Dissent) 53
COL -- Marvell Wynne (caution; Reckless Tackle) 71
COL -- Conor Casey (caution; Dissent) 93+
Seattle Sounders -- Kasey Keller, Leo Gonzalez, Tyrone Marshall, Jeff Parke, James Riley, Steve Zakuani (Sanna Nyassi 64), Brad Evans, Patrick Ianni, Freddie Ljungberg, Pat Noonan (Roger Levesque 83), Fredy Montero (Miguel Montano 76).
Substitutes Not Used: Nathan Sturgis, Tyson Wahl, Zach Scott, Terry Boss.
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Julien Baudet, Danny Earls, Mehdi Ballouchy, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Wells Thompson (Colin Clark 60), Conor Casey, Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 89).
Substitutes Not Used: Claudio Lopez, Scott Palguta, Andre Akpan, Ross LaBauex, Ian Joyce.
Referee: Jair Marrufo; Referee's Assistants: -Greg Barkey; Peter Manikowski; 4th Official: Ramon Hernandez