Commerce CIty, Colo. - With the team in the midst of a stretch where goals are not coming easy, coach Oscar Pareja handed Andre Akpan only his second start of the season on Wednesday night. The Harvard-grad responded by scoring the team's first goal of the match, and only his second career MLS goal, in the 3-0 win over Portland.
"It was good. It felt really good, I think for the young players when you get a chance you’ve got to take it," Akpan said afterwards. "That’s what we were able to do tonight and we got a win. Hopefully we can keep that going."
Akpan was given the nod ahead of the Rapids all-time leading scorer Conor Casey, who was an unused substitute. Pareja said two factors went into the decision.
"Conor's knee was bothering him after playing on the turf (at Portland)," the coach said about of resting Casey, in addition to as Brian Mullan, who also took a few knocks in the last match. "And it was the time for Andre. He came on and put the ball in the back of the net, which is great."
Akpan's only other start this season was on May 26 in the Rapids 3-2 win over Montreal. Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was also in the nets for the Impact that day before being traded to the Timbers.
"I think it was Drew (Moor) who hit it back post to find Tony (Cascio) and he got up above his defender," Akpan said of his goal. "It fell to me and I reacted, and tucked it away."
With Casey and Cummings struggling this season - Casey has two goals in 15 games while Cummings has five goals in 22 games - Akpan may have put himself in the discussion for more minutes.
"I think in the last month Andre has been showing his best, getting some minutes in the games," Pareja said. "And today he started and scored. I think he's a very legitimate option for us right now."