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Palguta (PALGUTA!) delivers winner

July 10, 2011 | 7:41 am No comments
By Shaun Schafer

The Colorado Rapids are undefeated when Scott Palguta scores.

Admittedly, the reserve defender has only scored twice in his career, with both goals coming this season. Each strike, however, has been the winner in 2-1 decisions for the Rapids (6-5-9, 27 points).

Palguta, who came on when Danny Earls couldn’t continue after 23 minutes, was in the right place at the right time to stroke home a rebound from a Conor Casey header and put the Rapids up 2-0 on the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.

Palguta’s tally in the 68th minute proved the game winner as Brazilian Camilo got loose for a score in the 77th minute to bring the expansion Whitecaps back into the game.

While that strike could have made for some tense moments late, the Rapids, who have been tied five times in 10 home matches this season, put on a clinic in how to kill off a game. In one late sequence, Jeff Larentowicz and Sanna Nyassi earned two corner kicks and a free kick as they played keep away from Whitecaps defenders near the right corner flag, shaving seconds that turned into minutes off the game clock.

Three Amigos: While a defender got the game winner, it was a night that belonged to Colorado’s forwards. Coach Gary Smith started three of them, with Caleb Folan and Omar Cummings joining Casey, who was wearing the captain’s armband in Pablo Mastroeni’s absence. The three forward lineup played well, with Casey getting the first goal, snapping the header that led to the second and nearly scoring on several opportunities. Cummings sent blistering shots from the left and right side that just missed wide, and Folan tirelessly chased loose balls until giving way to Brian Mullan in a late defensive substitution.

Casey’s Goal: While he has been on a torrid pace of late, scoring six times in seven games, Casey has had fewer prettier setups than the one he scored on in the 25th minute. Jamie Smith delivered a brilliant cross that cleared defenders and landed for Casey at the edge of the six-yard box. Casey finish was clinical.

Casey nearly had a second in the 53rd minute when Folan got a touch on a ball in the box and Casey latched on to it. The big forward rounded former Rapids ‘keeper Joe Cannon, but he couldn’t get his left-footed shot into the net from an acute angle with momentum carrying him and the shot out of bounds.

Smith delivered to Casey again in the sequence that produced Palguta’s goal. Smith’s free kick found Casey’s head near the 18, and Cannon had to stretch out fully to keep the forward’s header out. Palguta then delivered the coup de grace.

No Pablo: Team captain Mastroeni was unavailable for the match due to yellow card accumulation. Mastroeni picked up a card against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night in a collision that also hyperextended his right knee.

Midfield Trio: Without Mastroeni, the Rapids went with a 4-3-3 for most of the game, with Smith, Larentowicz and Wells Thompson working as a trio of central midfielders for most of the night. Introducing Mullan in the 65th minute, the team went back to a conventional 4-4-2 with Cummings and Casey up top.

Home Win: Prior to Saturday night, the Rapids had not won at home since April 3. Only the Chicago Fire had fewer than Colorado’s two home wins prior meeting Vancouver. Colorado’s home record improved to 3-2-5.

Rain Delay: The start of the second half was delayed nearly 20 minutes as rain fell in Commerce City and lightning flashed in the distance. The crowd of 13,058 went for shelter during the extended wait.

Next Up: After three games in six days produced a win and two draws, the Rapids get a measure of rest before travelling to face the Seattle Sounders on July 16.

Expect this to be a particularly savage Seattle crowd, especially when the name Mullan is mentioned. His tackle during the April 22 match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Steve Zakuani broke the forward’s leg and resulted in a 10-game suspension for Mullan. Sounders fans are unlikely to greet Mullan with anything short of derision.

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