By beating Real Salt Lake, 2-0,
Thursday night with two second-half goals, the Colorado Rapids confirmed their status as best team in the Western Conference.
Scoff if you will at their 4-4-0 record, good for a
three-point lead over FC Dallas (2-2-3). The Rapids aren't scintillating enough to scare people, but they're good enough to win. Omar Cummings
burnishes the reputation of Jamaican soccer far more times than be blemishes it, netted a winning goal with a crisp re-direction of a low, well-hit Colin Clark
cross, and Christian Gomez
put away a penalty kick to bump up the final score that well-represented the relative performances of the teams.
important than any one result or overall record is that Pablo Mastroeni
is fit again and played with more heart and soul than he has during most of his time in
Colorado, Jacob Peterson
justified his inclusion with a solid game as Terry Cooke
sat out another match, Nick LaBrocca
kept it simple and tidy, and, of all people, Facundo Erpen
tackled well and won balls in the air, and limited
his inevitable glitches to a careless ball played over the end line for a corner kick.
Oh, and speaking of Clark: good player.
RSL could have taken over first place
with a win or stayed tied in second with a tie, but while head coach Jason Kreis
sent out a fairly talented lineup, the pieces didn't seem to mesh. Sweat
and spirit ran astray, and with Andy Williams
spending far more time chasing Mastroeni than the reverse, his few effective touches came on corner kicks.
bounced one of his serves wide with a header that right back Kosuke Kimura
cleared anyway with an athletic
leap, and defender Matias Mantilla
-- whose languid handball provided Gomez with the PK -- missed badly despite getting a clean look at the frame.
Another chance for Deuchar late in the match floated a yard over the crossbar.
The prototypical targetman is rugged, honest, and determined, but needed proper support. Fabian Espindola
, an excellent player in many regards, likes to drift wide and hit crosses, but he and Deuchar seldom deployed themselves so the Scottish doctor
could go for goal. And nobody -- Williams, Kyle Beckerman
, Dema Kovalenko
- could get forward quickly enough to latch
onto knockdowns that Deuchar might have won. When Espindola ranged to the flanks, Williams seldom pushed high enough to provide additional options for him as well as Deuchar, who only occasionally
peeled away from Ugo Ihemelu
The insertion of Robbie Findley
for holding midfielder Kenny Cutler
came with about 20 minutes left, but he and the other attackers never sorted out their positions and roles. Mantilla's handball of a Herculez Gomez
flick with seven minutes left enabled the other Gomez to end all doubt. Only the last of RSL's three shots on goal tested Bouna Coundoul
, whose supple full-length save turned aside Espindola's wickedly skipping free kick in the 89th minute.
Earlier, the keeper had
provided a classic Bouna TimeBomb, by lackadaisically tracking a cross, only to explode into action at the last instant to fingertip it away. There's seldom a dull moment during Bouna Time.
Cummings menaced the RSL goal with his powerful, determined runs, and willingness to attack any ball. His sharply bouncing header of a Christian Gomez corner kick midway through the
first half forced a two-handed reflex save that just barely sent the ball looping onto the roof of the net.
Given another chance, he tallied a striker's goal. Christian Gomez
played the ball out wide left to Clark -- who had started the game on the right side - and Clark touched it once before slotting it low behind the back line to the near post, where Cummings had
timed and angled his run, and also set his feet to merely deflect the ball on frame with the inside of his left foot.
Given a similar chance, perhaps Deuchar or Espindola or Findley
could have done the same. RSL wasn't short of effort, as Beckerman worked and cajoled tirelessly, Kovalenko and Nat Borchers
battled, and Chris Wingert
scrapped. But aside from Williams' corners, and Espindola's last-ditch free kick, they lacked the quality and confidence to deliver the
When asked that same question, the Rapids came up with the answers, and for another week at least, they stay tops.