Home » Colorado Rapids, Rocky Mountain Cup

Once again, it all comes down to RSL

October 18, 2009 | 11:38 pm 8
By George Tanner

When the Major League Soccer schedule was released many months ago, the first game that stood out was the last one: Saturday, Oct. 24, at Real Salt Lake.

RSL knocked the Rapids out of the playoffs (and put itself in) in the final minute of the final game of 2008. And the league set up a similar showdown by pairing the two in the 2009 finale.

It makes sense: Nurture this rivalry by making the teams go head to head at the most crucial juncture. More than likely, some important playoff scenario would come down to the last game for at least one of the two. Why not let them bang heads to decide it?

And get their hate on in the process.

After Saturday’s loss 2-1 loss to FC Dallas, the Rapids have played right into the schedule makers’ hands. Saturday’s match in Texas could’ve ended up anywhere from a 2-2 tie (if Kosuke Kimura puts away his golden opportunity in the second half) to a 6-1 win for Dallas (if the Hoops put away any number of golden opportunities in either half of play).

The Rapids had so many breaks in this game that Altitude color commentator Marcelo Balboa predicted Colorado would come back and tie it 2-2. And you can’t blame him.

Jeff Cunningham was called offside on a play in which he wasn’t.

Referee Edvin Jurisevic was too busy passing out yellow cards to notice Pat Noonan play the ball with his arm in the Rapids’ penalty area.

Cunningham missed a sure goal wide right.

Cunningham missed a sure goal wide left.

Dax McCarty drove a hard shot just over the crossbar.

Cunningham served to David Ferreira, who missed a completely empty net wide after Cunningham drew Rapids goalkeeper Preston Burpo out of the penalty area.

And on and on. The Hoops had so many opportunities to put this one out of reach that it got comical. And it seemed as if the stars were aligning to allow the Rapids their fifth consecutive tie.

Nope. The second Rapids goal didn’t come, and Dallas’ two goals held up.

Dallas got on the board first in the fourth minute. Van den Bergh served a wicked free kick in front of the Rapids’ goal, and the towering George John slipped in front of Jordan Harvey and headed it in.

Balboa was right on the money in pointing out that John was aggressive on the play, attacking the ball, and Harvey was passive, waiting for the ball to come to him. That was the difference in the goal, and it was a rare mistake from Harvey this season. He has played consistently at a high level for Colorado all year, and this is a rare blemish on his 2009 record.

The Hoops made it a 2-0 lead when Ugo Ihemelu put the ball in the net in the second half after another Dallas free kick. Ihemelu swiped at the ball with his leg, sending it toward goal. Burpo made the initial save, but the rebound bounced into the net after hitting Burpo’s leg or foot. Whatever body part happened to be the culprit, it was a goal for Dallas.

Pat Noonan gave the Rapids some hope in the 71st minute. For some reason the goal was unassisted, but Nick LaBrocca set it up with some nice footwork along left edge of Dallas’ penalty area. Noonan showed some fancy moves of his own to keep the ball in front of him and away from former Rapids defender Ihemelu, then he fooled Dallas keeper Dario Sala with a shot to the near post. Sala was looking far post, and Noonan almost twisted him into the ground like a tent stake.

But that was it from the Rapids. Colorado beat Toronto 1-0 in Commerce City on Sept. 5 and hasn’t won a game since. The team has logged a 0-2-4 record in that stretch and has scored only six goals, three from the penalty spot.

Six matches. Four points.

It’s a bad time of the season to be hitting a wall. And the last chance to get over that wall is Saturday.

In Sandy, Utah.

RACE FOR THE GOLDEN BOOT: In a highly anticipated meeting between the top contenders for the MLS Golden Boot, Cunningham and Rapids striker Conor Casey came up empty. Cunningham couldn’t finish any of his numerous chances, and Casey’s teammates couldn’t put him in a position to score. So, instead, we got John’s first goal in MLS, Ihemelu’s first goal of the season and Noonan’s second goal with the Rapids.

ALTITUDE HIGH JINKS 1: The Kroenke entertainment and sports programming network missed the first four minutes of the match, opting to show the Colorado Avalanche on Altitude and Altitude 2 simultaneously. The first we saw was Cory Gibbs objecting to a foul outside of the box (which is what led to van den Bergh’s fateful free kick). I’m not sure everybody had that problem in the metro area, but that’s what we got in Greeley on Comcast.

ALTITUDE HIGH JINKS 2: When will they stop superimposing images of the announcing team in front of the road stadium? It’s bush league. Just show them in the studio. It’s obvious Cory Lopez and Balboa aren’t at the stadium (Balboa even talked about driving to the game on Saturday), and trying to give the impression that they are on location is deceitful. Fox Soccer Channel often has its announcers in the studio (and not at the match site), and it never feels the need to lie to its viewers. They don’t make a point of hiding the fact that they’re not at the stadium; they just don’t try to show viewers that they are.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Dave van den Bergh’s service on the first Dallas goal was sublime, a low, curling rope of a kick. The Dallas offense was firing bullets that the Rapids couldn’t stop, only dodge, and van den Bergh was pulling the trigger. In the first 20 minutes of the second half, Dallas attacked in waves, with van den Bergh leading the charge. I thought Ihemelu matched up well with Omar Cummings and was making a case to be man of the match. And when Ugo scored his goal, the case got stronger. But there was a fire in Dallas’ bellies on Saturday, and van den Bergh threw fuel on the fire with his offense.

MISSING: The Rapids were without defender Julien Baudet and midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy because of disciplinary suspensions.

YOUNG AT THE BACK: When Rapids coach Gary Smith took Cory Gibbs out of the game in the 63rd minute, I thought it was a strong vote of confidence in defender Scott Palguta. Then, when Smith took out Palguta for striker Ross Schunk in the 87th, I thought it was a strong vote of confidence in rookie defender Michael Holody.

MAN WITH TWO FIRST NAMES: George John has a name that’s odd because it’s difficult not to think of either name as a first name. George. John. John. George.Then that got me thinking. George, er, John wasn’t the only player on the pitch with two first names, too. What about Jordan Harvey? And Conor Casey? But is Conor a first name or a last name more often. And, to be fair, if you consider how many folks have named their precious little boy Tanner in the past 20 years, I’m rocking two first names as well.

RAPIDS STARTERS: Preston Burpo, Drew Moor, Cory Gibbs, Scott Palguta, Kosuke Kimura, Nick LaBrocca, Pablo Mastroeni, Pat Noonan, Jordan Harvey, Conor Casey, Omar Cummings.

DALLAS STARTERS: Dario Sala, Heath Pearce, Ugo Ihemelu, George John, Jair Benitez, Atiba Harris, Daniel Hernandez, Dax McCarty, Dave van den Bergh, Jeff Cunningham, David Ferreira.

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 affiliate 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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  • J Cieraszynski said:

    Thanks for the great analysis for the Colorado Rapids. Its very difficult to get anything that is not sanitized. I hope they win, but I am having a flashback to last year.
    Best regards

  • George Tanner (author) said:

    i’m with ya, brother. that was a tough way to finish the season last year. it still hurts. difficult to imagine a more painful finish to the season. and THAT was at home. this one’s on the road. …

  • Nick Thomas said:

    George, I agree with you that Jordan Havery has had a very consistent season. But he was also at fault for the New England goal earlier this month because the attacker outjumped him. That’s two games in a row now. Big blemishes at this time of the year.

  • Richard Terry said:

    Hey George,

    I live in the south metro area in Centennial and we had the same problem with Altitude 2 here. I was glad that I only missed 4 minutes, but still. I am a full season ticket holder but i usually work during road games so when i get to watch the team on TV, is is a rare occurrence. RAPIDS TILL I DIE!!!

  • George Tanner (author) said:

    Richard: Thanks for reading and thanks for the info on the telecast. I’m not glad that other viewers also lost the first four minutes, but it is interesting to find out that the problem was more widespread than solely the cable at my house.

  • Kevin said:

    I (living in SL,UT, now) think that this is a pretty good video about how Leo values the cup. Looking forward to seeing the game tomorrow to see where it spends the next year.


  • Eric said:


    The telecast issue was a Comcast, not Altitude, problem. Interesting that you went straight to blaming Altitude: “The Kroenke entertainment and sports programming network missed the first four minutes of the match, opting to show the Colorado Avalanche on Altitude and Altitude 2 simultaneously.”

    I called Comcast as soon as I saw the problem. The agent put me on hold when I told him of the problem and within about 1 min, we could see Comcast making the change-first putting the Rapids on Altitude (sure that made Avalanche fans happy) and then correctly changing the soccer match to CET. When the agent returned, he indicated that Comcast had corrected the issue and that I should be seeing the Rapids on CET.

    I know this is a blog, but this is something that could have easily been verified as opposed to automatically placing the blame on Kroenke.

  • George Tanner (author) said:

    eric, you are correct. i should’ve made that phone call before pointing the finger.

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