Colorado and FC Dallas, two of the three Western Conference teams to shake up their organizations with coaching changes this season, are just noses
apart in the race to reach the playoffs after Thursday night's 1-0 Rapids victory at Pizza Hut Park. Mike Petke
, so unmarked he would have had
time to re-dye his hair, headed in a Terry Cooke
corner kick near the hour mark to separate a pair of teams whose new head coaches have yet to stabilize
their squads. The Rapids' rather miserable 8-12-3 mark (27 points) is good for a share of third place along with Chivas USA; FCD (6-8-8) is fifth, just one point behind. Five points separate
second-place Real Salt Lake from Los Angeles and San Jose, which are tied for last with 25 points.
Despite winning, Colorado turned the ball over dozens of times in vulnerable spots, and
despite sending waves of attackers forward, FC Dallas seldom tested Colorado keeper Preston Burpo
, whose own misadventures offer further opportunities. Yet
Burpo and his teammates held out for the shutout that ended a nine-game winless streak and provided interim head coach Gary Smith
with his first MLS
Smith left Christian Gomez
on the bench at the start of the game for the fourth straight time and the 2006 MLS MVP never moved from that
position except at halftime. FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman
's running battle with Andre Rocha
prompted his exclusion
from the 18-man game roster, a decision the coach may have regretted after sending out substitutes Eric Avila
, Dax McCarty
and Dominic Oduro
in a futile effort to get a goal.
Hyndman included seldom-used Michael
, Anthony Wallace
and rookie Bruno Guarda
in his starting lineup and through perseverance and luck,
FCD outshot Colorado, 15-9. But squandered chances betrayed their efforts.
Burpo stormed out of his goal in the 35th minute and lost a race to the ball, but Jeff Cunningham
couldn't find the empty net with his shot. A low, sizzling shot by Kenny Cooper
four minutes into the second half forced a good
save from Burpo, but from the ensuing corner - one of 10 on the night for FCD - nothing materialized.
Colorado nearly broke through two minutes before Cooper's shot when FCD couldn't
clear the ball during a scramble and Conor Casey
turned to strike a shot on net. Aaron Pitchkolan
, stationed on the
goalpost, got his leg on it.
Besides Cunningham's miss, the best FCD chances came on two balls delivered by McCarty to defender Drew Moor
neither case could he put the ball on the frame. He misfired from a corner kick, and on a flighted serve after a short corner, Moor -- as alone as Petke had been -- somehow headed it well wide from
just yards away. Another good serve from McCarty dropped for Oduro to balloon over the bar.
The Rapids couldn't match FCD's offensive thrusts but their set plays brought results. A
first-half corner kick from Cooke yielded a Tom McManus
header that Dallas goalie Dario Sala
turned over the bar, but
all the keeper could do was stand and stare when Cooke's corner in the 60th minute found Petke, who carefully guided it back across the goal and into the far top corner.
Both teams face
Eastern Conference opposition next week; Dallas travels to D.C. United, the Rapids host Chicago. No matter how much the placings may have changed by then, the conference race won't be any looser.