By: William Gray
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Returning to the starting lineup in style, Conor Casey and the Rapids netted three goals against the Houston Dynamo.
The theme was early and often for the Rapids as all three goals in their 3-0 victory came inside the first 22 minutes. The first goal in the parade belonged to Jamie Smith in the 1st Minute after Casey threaded a through ball behind the Dynamo defense. Hitting him in stride, Smith bulged the net, setting the tone for the remainder of the half.
Adding to Houston’s problems, midfielder Lovel Palmer was sent off by a red card in the 9th minute for kicking at Pablo Mastroeni after a collision. The Rapids wasted no time in capitalizing on their advantage, scoring two goals in the next ten minutes.
Continuing to dazzle, Casey drove through the heart of Houston’s back four, slipping the ball to Omar Cummings at the last second for an easy put away in the 16th minute. During Casey’s injury, the team won only 1 of 5 contests while playing in a 4-3-3. Upon Casey’s return, the team returned to their usual 4-4-2 and the results were evident.
“It was nice that [Cummings and I] were playing a little bit closer and we were able to break through a bunch of times,” said Casey, “it felt comfortable in the 4-4-2 tonight.” In the 22nd minute, Casey figured it was time for one of his own, and headed home a rebound off Houston goalie Pat Onstad.
Colorado goalkeeper, Ian Joyce, made his MLS debut, getting the start after Matt Pickens was pulled with back problems. Saving all five of the shots Houston put on goal, he earned his first clean sheet along with his first start.
Playing man-up the entire game gave the Rapids a chance to hold the ball for the majority of the contest. The midfield shuttled the ball effectively down the pitch while Casey and Cummings made strong runs off the ball. With the roster intact, the Rapids look primed for their playoff run. Each win further solidifies their postseason spot and with Casey back in the lineup the synergy is building.
Colorado is stacked with talented ball handlers from front to back and with their finisher returning to the lineup, the weak spots seem to be shrinking. The fact that the Rapids are in the middle of the pack is a testament to the strength of the Western Conference and MLS soccer as a whole.
Casey and Cummings will get their next chance to dazzle spectators on Sept. 4th when Chivas USA makes their only visit to Colorado in 2010.