[MLS] The Colorado Rapids, fifth in the Western Conference, beat the Eastern Conference runner-up Columbus Crew, 1-0, in the first leg of their conference semifinal series thanks to the unlikeliest of heroes. Pablo Mastroeni, who has scored only six goals in 286 regular-season games in his 13-year career and was scoreless in 23 playoff games entering Thursday's match, had the lone goal.
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Mastroeni, the lone survivor from the last Rapids team to make the playoffs in 2006, started the play and finished it on Colorado's winning goal in the 23rd minute.
He stole the ball in midfield and started the break that saw Omar Cummings break clear down the right wing. Conor Casey
was the intended target of Cummings' cross to the near post, but the ball rolled across the penalty area and came to Mastroeni, who easily beat Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum.
Gruenebaum was playing in his first playoff games in five MLS seasons in place of the injured William Hesmer, out after breaking his shoulder in Sunday's 3-1 win at Philadelphia in the regular-season finale.
Columbus had a chance to equalize in the 84th minute, but Rapids goalie Matt Pickens stopped Andy Iro's open header from eight yards.
The Crew was also without Danny O'Rourke, sidelined since mid-September, and it looks like forward Emilio Renteria will be out of the series against the Rapids with knee problems.
The second leg will be played Nov. 6 at Crew Stadium.
Oct. 28 in Commerce City, Colo.
Colorado 1 Columbus 0. Goal: Mastroeni 1 (Casey 1, Cummings 1) 23.
Colorado -- Pickens, Kimura (Baudet, 89), Moor, Wynne, Wallace, Mullan, Larentowicz, Mastroeni, Thompson (Kandji 75), Casey, Cummings.
Columbus -- Gruenebaum, Hejduk, Marshall, Iro, Francis, Ekpo, Gaven, Carroll (Burns 84), Rogers, Lenhart (Garey 68), Barros Schelotto (Mendoza 68).
Yellow Cards: Colorado -- Mastroeni 92+; Carroll 57.
Referee: Jair Marrufo