As we count down 2011, ColoradoRapids.com is taking a look back at the top five moments of the Rapids' 2011 campaign. It's by no means an exhaustive list, since we can think of many other highlights that will be remembered from the past year.
TOP MOMENT #5: Records, honors, & milestones
Taking the #4 spot on the Top Five Moments of 2011 is the Colorado Rapids 4-1 rout of the visiting New York Red Bulls on July 20 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park:
The Rapids started the season off blazing hot by winning the first three games of the year. However, as the team approached the summer showdown with the Red Bulls, victories had been hard to come by as Colorado had won only three of the previous 19 matches (including the U.S. Open Cup play-in loss to Chicago).
Between injuries, national team commitments, suspensions, and loss of form, things just weren't going their way. And it appeared to get worse just the day before the game against NY when forward Conor Casey, who missed a good chunk of the early part of the season with a hamstring strain - but had come back to lead the team in goals - was confirmed out for the season after tests revealed he had torn his Achilles in Seatlle on July 16.
Despite the loss of the team's all-time leading scorer, there were plenty of options to replace him up top against New York, including Quincy Amarikwa, Andre Akpan, and Caleb Folan. However coach Gary Smith surprised everyone when he started winger Sanna Nyassi alongside Omar Cummings at forward.
The move definitely caught the Red Bulls off guard as Nyassi proceeded to torch the NY defense by scoring his first three goals of the season in leading the Rapids to a 4-1 rout (Watch: Nyassi hattrick). Let's not forget that the Red Bulls starting XI included a Designated Player in Frank Rost in goal, All-Star and up-and-coming U.S. National Team Tim Ream at center back, and Designated Player Thierry Henry playing alongside another U.S. National Team forward Juan Agudelo up top.
Nyassi went on to win the MLS Player of the Week for his impressive display after notching the team's first hat trick since Casey's three-goal performance on August 8, 2009.
The victory was a turning point of sorts for the Rapids, as it began a six game unbeaten run and allowed the team to lock up 14 of 18 possible points in the standings.