Move over Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, there's a new leading scorer in Colorado. Jeff Larentowicz's free kick goal against Vancouver in the final game of the season was his seventh of the year in MLS play, moving the midfielder past Conor Casey and Caleb Folan to claim the team's Golden Boot honor.
"It's great," said Larentowicz following the game. "That's something I was not expecting, and I wish it weren't me. But tonight there was a free kick and it's a situation where you're trying to find a hole and it found it's way in."
Casey, who started only 11 games before his season was cut short with a torn Achilles, led the team in with 16 goals in 2008 and 11 in 2009. Cummings lead the team in 2011 with 14 goals but injuries and national team duty limited him to 18 starts this year and only three goals.
Larentowicz becomes the fourth midfielder in team history to lead the team in goals in a season. In 2002, wide midfielders Mark Chung and Chris Henderson tied forward Chris Carrieri with 11 goals each, with Chung winning the Golden Boot due to his 10 assists. In 2006, center midfielder Kyle Beckerman tied forward Nicolas Hernandez for the lead with seven goals, with Hernandez winning the award by also registering six assists.
With Vancouver winning 1-0, Larentowicz stepped up to take a free kick just outside the box in the 59th minute. Sanna Nyassi tapped the ball to Jamie Smith, who stopped it as Larentowicz step forward and hit it through the wall and into the goal.
"I couldn't really see what happened," Larentowicz said. "I just saw the net move, and I knew it went in. Someone said that it went through (goalkeeper) Joe Cannon's legs. In that situation there's so many bodies in front of him, he sees it late, and that's what I try to do: strike it hard and keep it low."
It was Larentowicz's third free kick goal of the season, having also tallied on set pieces at New York and San Jose. The victory ensures the Rapids will host the Wild Card game either Wednesday or Thursday of next week at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"The result is huge," he said. "I think that we came up here knowing it was going to be a tough game. To get a win was big for us because we didn't want to have to get back into an airport and fly again. We were very happy to get a win".
For Larentowicz, who along with goalkeeper Matt Pickens and defender Kosuke Kimura started all 34 regular season games, it doesn't matter which team they play in the Wild Card game.
"They're going to come play us, so we'll just wake up and find out who it'll be," he said.
RAPIDS LEADING GOAL-SCORERS PER SEASON: 1996 - Jean Harbor (11); 1997 - Paul Bravo (8); 1998 - Wolde Harris (13); 1999 - Jorge Dely Valdez (10); 2000 - Junior Agogo (10); 2001 - John Spencer (14); 2002 - Mark Chung, Chris Henderson, Carrieri (11); 2003 - John Spencer (14); 2004 - Jean Philippe Peguero (7); 2005 - Jeff Cunningham (12); 2006 - Nicolas Hernandez, Kyle Beckerman (7); 2007 - Jovan Kirovski (6); 2008 - Conor Casey (11); 2009 - Conor Casey (16); 2010 - Omar Cummings (14).