Rapids Fall to Defending MLS Champs Columbus 1-0

COMMERCE CITY Colo. (Saturday August 1 2009) – Ultimately the Rapids would have been satisfied to take a single point playing at home Saturday night and facing the defending MLS Cup Champion Columbus Crew.
Expectations may have risen some with a strong first half that saw Colorado dominate on possessions and outshoot the Crew 8-1 but when Columbus earned a contentious free kick in the 39th minute and Chad Marshall got a shot past ‘keeper Matt Pickens from 25 yards the Rapids moved into increasingly frustrating and desperate circumstances.
"Our form has been pretty decent at home and I think [Columbus] would have been extremely satisfied with a point Rapids head coach Gary Smith said.
"And I have to say through the amount of clear cut opportunities we made I thought nil-nil would probably have been written all over the game. In the end they win the game we have to say on a silly free kick. Matt [Pickens Rapids goalkeeper] rightly held his hand up and said he’s made a mistake. You make mistakes and sadly they bite us in the backside. Tonight it has."
The critical play came when Cory Gibbs was charged with a foul against Steven Lenhart setting up a free kick for Robbie Rogers. Rogers tapped it to Marshall beside him and Marshall unloaded from outside of the area with a blast that Pickens somehow let get past him.
It brings back a recurring pattern the Rapids became familiar with earlier in the season shutting down the opposition from all but one or two clear chances but watching teams capitalize on a momentary lapse to make the most of the chance.
"We’re talking about a defeat on the back of a bad goal-keeping error if you like Smith explained. "It’s a routine free kick into his body and it squirms underneath him. Last week Matt made two terrific saves at important times so I’m not going to be too critical of that but we’re talking about fine lines here against good teams. As we saw in the first half they had that one shot on goal which really was a routine shot on goal. And they win the game with it."
Omar Cummings alone had more chances than the entire Columbus attack taking seven shots three on target and offering even more passes to set-up potential goals for his teammates in front of the net. Cummings was a one-man offensive force for the Rapids and early on it seemed inevitable that his side would eventually break through if they kept pressuring Columbus ‘keeper William Hesmer.
"We hope in a matter of time we’ll get one Cummings said of the Rapids ultimately posting 16 shots to the Crew’s five. "But you know the longer the game goes on with them being up a goal they’re going to start making it difficult for us start dropping back not giving us as much space. They’re not going to open up as much. You know the game’s going to be more and more difficult the longer it goes on."
The game exemplified that fine line that soccer is played along with Cummings feeling dejected despite offering one of his better performances of the season and the team taking little but disappointment out of a dominant performance against the class of the Eastern Division.
"Overall I think we performed well Gibbs said. "We created chances we had good possession. We just weren’t as clinical in the final third [of the field]. They got a free kick that wasn’t really a free kick—that was the most disappointing part of everything—and scored a goal that they really shouldn’t score off of. You score off of one chance you give up one chance in a game one clear chance it’s very disappointing with the number of chances we had."
The game saw Jamie Smith make his Rapids debut in the 71st minute and Facundo Diz came on in the 75th minute for another 15-minute appearance his second since coming to the club when the international trade window opened in mid-July. Neither is fully match fit so the Rapids have yet to get an honest look at their ability to help provide that missing ingredient the Rapids are searching for to finish their chances.
One big ingredient not in play Saturday was Rapids leading scorer Conor Casey who was expected to start but was a last minute scratch after an adductor injury suffered in the All-Star Game Saturday.
"I noticed it kind of late after the game Casey said of the injury. "I don’t think it’s that bad. But with the short turn around the team decided not to risk further aggravation by playing him Saturday.
It’s easy to see the Rapids as snake-bitten when a handful of games offer up evidence of the team being burned by a single let-down in an otherwise dominant performance but Smith rightly recognizes the difference in the teams who can consistently come out on the winning end of those fine-line distinctions and teams like the Rapids who too often end up outside the line.
"How many times did [Columbus] come away from games last year squeaking one-nil wins when for the world everyone thought it was going to be nil-nil?" Smith wondered. "That’s why they’re champions. Because they can win a game one-nil and at the moment we somehow contrive to concede a goal. That is the mark of a side at the moment as we are that are contenders and not serious challengers. We are growing. We have to keep working hard there’s no two ways."
AT&T Rapids Man of the Match: Omar Cummings
Scoring Summary:
CLB- Marshall (Rogers) 39'
Columbus Crew: William Hesmer Gino Padula Danny O'Rourke Jason Garey (Alejandro Moreno 68) Eddie Gaven (Adam Moffat 80) Chad Marshall Brian Carroll Robbie Rogers (Emmanuel Ekpo 66) Eric Brunner Jed Zayner Steven Lenhart
Substitutes Not Used: Andy Gruenebaum Andy Iro Duncan Oughton Kevin Burns
Colorado Rapids: Matt Pickens Jordan Harvey Ugo Ihemelu Cory Gibbs Mehdi Ballouchy (Jacob Peterson 60) Pat Noonan (Facundo Diz 75) Omar Cummings Nick LaBrocca Colin Clark (Jamie Smith 71) Pablo Mastroeni Scott Palguta
Substitutes Not Used: Preston Burpo Ty Harden Greg Dalby Kosuke Kimura
CLB- Garey (caution; Reckless Tackle) 47+
COL- Ihemelu (caution; Reckless Tackle) 60
COL- Ihemelu (ejection; Second Caution) 84
Referee: Yader Reyes
Referee's Assistants: Eric Boria Peter Manikowski
Fourth Official: Ben Chouaf
Attendance: 10851