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 I can think of many other highlights that will be remembered from the past year.
Top Moment #5: Records, honors, & milestones
Top Moment #4: Routing of the Bulls
The top three moments were difficult to rank, mostly because they could each be The highlight of the year. Taking the #3 spot on the Top 5 Moments of 2011 is...the 2011 season and home opener against the Portland Timbers.
Almost four months had passed since the Colorado Rapids defeated FC Dallas to win MLS Cup 2010 by the time the team's 2011 season kicked off at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Wearing the 'Champions' scudetto on the right chest, opposite the team logo, and using the 'Champions' silver ball, the Rapids - on March 19 - began a season for the first time ever as the defending MLS Cup Champions.
The buzz and anticipation which had started months before reach a high the night before the match when many Rapids supporters partied with many from the large contigent of Timbers fans that had made the trip to Colorado to watch their team's first game in Major League Soccer. The fun carried on to the pre-game tailgate parties on gameday and continued - at least for Rapids fans - for the rest of the night.
During a pre-game ceremony, the MLS Cup was paraded around the field by representatives of the many contributors of the club’s history, which included long-time fans, sponsors and partners, departed staff, and retired players. The noise level was off the charts as fans waived the ‘star’ championship flags and Colorado state flags while the permanent MLS Cup Championship banner was unveiled on the north wall under the main scoreboard just prior to kickoff.
Using the starting the same XI that began MLS Cup 2010, the Rapids rode the pre-game atmosphere to a commanding 3-0 lead after just 30 minutes.
Jeff Larentowicz, who earlier that week was involved in a car accident that saw him transported to the hospital in a neck brace - and who was wearing a cast to protect his fractured thumb - gave the Rapids the lead in the 8th minute. Omar Cummings had done well to keep a ball in play in the corner and then beat his man on the endline before sending a cross from the near post. The pass was deflected right into the path of the Ginger Ninja, who was able to re-direct the ball past former Rapids 'keeper Adin Brown for the first goal of the year. Cummings doubled the lead 20 minutes later with a goal off a header, and Jamie Smith put a nail in the coffin of the expansion Timbers when his dipping 25-yard shot a minute later found the back of the net and kept the crowd in a frenzy.
The dominating 3-1 victory more than satisfied the team's faithful. But perhaps more importantly, it also quieted many who had previously doubted if the Rapids were worthy of being the Defending Champions.