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Marshall’s free kick provides just enough punch for Columbus

August 1, 2009 | 11:50 pm No comments
By George Tanner

Rapids striker Omar Cummings kept Columbus defender Chad Marshall, right, off balance throughout Saturday’s game — but couldn’t find a goal for Colorado. (photo by Jonathan Ingraham/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

Call it yellow-and-black magic.

Or, if you’re Omar Cummings and the Colorado Rapids, maybe Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to the Columbus Crew had a slightly more pessimistic tint.

“Black magic.”

That’s the best explanation Cummings could find for losing a game in which the Rapids outshot Columbus 16-5, a match in which the visitors put only two shots on goal.

It might help clarify how the Crew could win without Guillermo Barros Schelotto or Frankie Hejduk in the lineup, without significant offensive contributions from midfielders Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers or strikers Jason Garey or Steven Lenhart.

Rogers’ primary contribution was tapping an indirect free kick to defender Chad Marshall in the 39th minute. Marshall buried his shot into the right of the Rapids’ goal, and the Crew did just enough to keep the Rapids off the scoreboard.

“It was very frustrating. They basically had the free kick, and that was it,” Cummings said. “Not converting our chances and seeing the game go further and further was just very frustrating. … You know the longer the game goes on with them being up a goal, they’re going to make it difficult for us, start dropping back, not giving us much space. They’re not going to open up as much. You know the game is going to be more difficult the longer it goes on.”

If the Crew did anything magical on Saturday, it was denying Cummings.

The Jamaican was a handful all night for Marshall, one of the league’s best central defenders. Cummings beat him to the outside in the first 10 minutes. Cummings gave him fits with speed and stepovers in the 18th minute. Cummings freed himself to put a header on goal during a 55th-minute corner kick, and he sliced a shot inches wide after a give-and-go with Pat Noonan later in the second half.

But Rapids coach Gary Smith agreed with Cummings that the striker’s best chance came in the 34th minute on a long ball from defender Jordan Harvey.

“It was a diagonal ball played by Jordan,” Smith said. “Chad Marshall stumbled, and Omar got in behind him and had just the goalkeeper to beat. If he gets a good connection, he can do a lot of things. Omar just rushed it a little bit. We can’t be too critical of that finish when you see the amount of problems he’s given.”

But Cummings was hard on himself after the game. Despite taking seven shots (more than all of the Crew’s players combined), Cummings said he didn’t think he had a strong game.

“I think we created chances, but we were just below par tonight with our finishing,” he said. “If we need to work on finishing, that’s something we need to work on. There’s no one guarantee. We put the effort in tonight, but unfortunately we didn’t get the win.”

Saturday’s match was eerily similar to the Crew’s previous visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. In 2008, Columbus beat the Rapids 2-0 in Commerce City despite being outshot 23-3. The Rapids took 17 corner kicks in that game, and the Crew had none.

“Hopefully we’ll have one of these games where we come out victorious,” he said.

And if they do, they’ll have to chalk it up to burgundy-and-blue magic.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Marshall. In addition to the goal, he did what he needed to do to keep Cummings from scoring.

SAVE OF THE MATCH: On Cummings’ header in the 55th minute, Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer lunged to his left to halt the progress of the shot. Then, falling to the turf, he stopped the ball directly on the goal line.

PLAYOFF HUNT: The Rapids began the evening with 27 points, tied for the eighth-best total in the league. The top two teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs, and the next four teams with the most points qualify, regardless of conference. So the Rapids held one of the playoff spots before and after Saturday’s loss. But, with a win, Colorado could’ve vaulted past Chivas USA, Los Angeles and Seattle and into second place in the Western Conference.

CELEBRITY LOOK-ALIKE OF THE MATCH: Steven “Behind Blue Eyes” Lenhart. I don’t actually know what color his eyes are, but that curly blond hair makes me think of The Who’s Roger Daltrey every time I look at him.

ATTENDANCE MATTERS: The official attendance was 10,851, a poor showing when the defending MLS champions were in town.

MLS DEBUT: Jamie Smith made his Major League Soccer debut, relieving Colin Clark in the 71st minute. “I was pleased to get on the pitch. It was good to get involved,” Jamie Smith said. “Obviously the result was really disappointing. Over the 90 minutes I think we deserved more of the game. The boys worked harder than them. But they’re a good side. They’re organized. They sat deep for most of the game. The didn’t really come out and attack us too often. Unluckily for us, they get the goal, which was unfortunate. It was disappointing because of the amount of effort the boys put in. And to come out with nothing at the end was less than we expected.”

MISSING IN ACTION: Ugo Ihemelu picked up his second yellow card of the game in the 84th minute and was ejected. He will miss Saturday’s match against Chivas USA at Commerce City.

MISSING, OUT OF ACTION: Rapids striker Conor Casey missed the game because of a sore groin. Julien Baudet was in street clothes and a cast; Gary Smith said Baudet broke two bones in his forearm when the central defender collided with New York’s Sinisa Ubiparipovic last week.

GALLERY OF HONOR: The Rapids announced Friday that ColoradoSoccerNow.com favorite John Spencer will be added to the club’s Gallery of Honor during halftime of the Aug. 30 match against Houston. Spenny is a Dynamo assisstant coach. He will join Marcelo Balboa, Paul Bravo and Chris Henderson in the gallery, along the north wall inside Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

COLUMBUS STARTERS: Hesmer, Brunner, Marshall, Padula, Gaven, Carroll, O’Rourke, Zayner, Rogers, Garey, Lenhart.

RAPIDS STARTERS: Pickens, Ihemelu, Gibbs, Palguta, Harvey, LaBrocca, Ballouchy, Pablo, Clark, Omar, Noonan.

blockquote-tiny-georgie-mug George Tanner is a former writer and editor for the Rocky Mountain News; the Greeley Tribune; The Daily Independent of Ridgecrest, Calif.; the Durango Herald; and the Boulder Daily Camera. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado and an associate professor at Metropolitan State College of Denver. E-mail him at [email protected].

To advertise on Colorado Soccer Now, e-mail George at [email protected].

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