Rapids Go Toe-to-Toe With US Men's National Team

COLORADO SPRINGS (Exclusive to The Colorado Rapids fell today 3-2 to the US Men's National Team in a closed-door scrimmage today in Colorado Springs.

On a turf field at Colorado College the teams braved cold temperatures and a frozen field despite a 1:00pm kickoff.

Fresh off a 3-0 victory over Colombia and a 7-0 spanking of Chivas USA the Americans came in finely-tuned for the match but the Rapids were up to the challenge having gotten in weeks of fitness conditioning and game action in their spring training trips to Ecuador Florida and Birmingham Alabama.

The match featured Rapids players on both sides as Colorado players Pablo Mastroeni Ritchie Kotschau Joe Cannon and Nat Borchers are all currently training in the US camp in preparation for the Americans' upcoming qualification matches for the 2005 World Cup.

Joe Cannon started the match in goal for the Americans and played the first half before being substituted by Kevin Hartman of the LA Galaxy while at the other end of the field Byron Foss played between the pipes for the Rapids the entire game.

Defender Nat Borchers played the first half for the Rapids before switching sides and playing the second half for the USA. Defender Ritchie Kotschau who earned his first cap for the Yanks just last week played the whole match for the USMNT.

The only notable absence on the day was Pablo Mastroeni currently the Team Captain of both sides. He was excused from the match today as last night he and his wife celebrated the birth of their first child a boy Gianluca.

The US started off the scoring with a quick strike by the Americans' midfielder Steve Ralston who victimized the Rapids defense with a goal in the early going in the match.

Jean Philippe Peguero looked like he would take one back for the Rapids in the 37th minute as he broke away in a one-on-one vs. Cannon. However Pedro's shot went just inches wide of Cannon's far post.

The US struck immediately off of the following goal kick on a quick counterattack that was finished efficiently by the USA's youth prodigy Eddie Johnson who beat Foss with a low shot for the score and who continues his torrid scoring pace for the national team.

However the Rapids came back just before the half. Jeff Cunningham drew back a goal for Colorado with some skillfull dribbling in front of the Americans' goal and a fine finish past Cannon and the teams entered the locker rooms at halftime with the score 2-1 to the USA.

The second half saw a bunch of substitutions for the Rapids. With Nat Borchers switching teams Amir Lowery filled in in the Rapids' central defense. Dan Gargan came in for Eric Denton the player formerly of the Columbus Crew who is in camp with the Rapids. Alain Nkong subbed for Mark Chung and Englishman Terry Cooke entered the match for Uruguayan Martin Morales in the Rapids' midfield. Head Coach Fernando Clavijo also replaced the striker duo of Peguero and Cunningham with Wolde Harris and Luchi Gonzalez at the start of the 2nd half.

The USA struck again in the 2nd half to increase their lead to 3-1. Eddie Gaven who will join Rapids defender Hunter Freeman with the US U-20's on their trip to South Korea next week to participate in a tournament ahead of the FIFA World Youth Championship hit a long pass to Hawaiian native Brian Ching who got behind the Rapids' defense on a breakaway and was able to finish past Foss to increase the USA's lead.

However Rapids striker Luchi Gonzalez had the most dazzling play of the match for either side as he nailed a brilliant finish in the 83rd minute. Chris Henderson fired a pass up the wing to Terry Cooke who whipped a cross into the path of an onrushing Gonzalez. Luchi blasted a great shot from distance past Hartman to narrow the gap to 3-2.

Rapids defender Guy Melamed had a great match in the back for the Rapids and the former member of the Israeli Special Forces made several tough tackles on the Americans all match and helped to limit the production of Taylor Twellman and Clint Mathis.

Despite some last-minute flurries on both ends of the pitch the scoreline remained the same and the game finished 3-2.

The Rapids will have the day off tomorrow and will train again on Thursday in Westminster before departing on Friday for Houston TX for the last leg of their spring training where they will take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday in the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.

Rapids Lineups: Foss Freeman Borchers (Lowery 45') Melamed Denton (Gargan 45') Henderson Beckerman Chung (Nkong 45') Morales (Cooke 45') Peguero (Harris 45') Cunningham (Gonzalez 45').