When last I updated you on the Rapids, things were not looking good. Three losses in a row and, exasperated, I declared “Something’s gotta give!” because next on our schedule was Montreal, who were sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference.
I watched the Cali Classico the next day and had to laugh when they called it the most exciting match of the season; clearly they didn’t see Colorado vs. Montreal. I was, admittedly, nervous going into Saturday’s match, but was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The Rapids looked good (and so did Montreal, but I expected as much). The match felt even and competitive, and the match stats back that observation up. Hendry Thomas, Nathan Sturgis, and Dillon Powers showed impressive control in the midfield, and we created some really great opportunities. It was hard to believe this was the same team that looked so bad in the previous three matches.
Attiba Harris opened the Rapids’ account in the 24th, but Colorado still found themselves down 2-1 at the half. Rookie Dillon Powers evened it up early in the second half and the Rapids were able to hold the even score line until the 72nd. It only took five minutes for Colorado to even it up again, but despite their continued pressure, the match seemed destined to end in a draw…and then something amazing happened:
I don’t think I even have words for that play. I lost my mind. I keep watching it over and over. I think “clinical” is overused in football punditry so I try to avoid it, but I cannot think of a better word to describe that play by Klute. Clinical tackle, pops up immediately to run the ball down. Obviously his service in was ill timed, but a lucky deflection and a beautifully struck ball by Tony Cascio at the very death of the match makes up for that error. I think my heart rate increased from reviewing that play in my head just now. What a finish. (Plus, you’ve gotta love the call from Rapids commentator Richard Fleming. Apparently it was Fox Soccer’s “Call of the Week.”)
Colorado had the benefit of riding that wave of confidence into their midweek meet up with New York in front of a sold out 4th of July crowd at Dicks Sporting Goods Park, where again, they did not disappoint. After a scoreless and rather uneventful first half, Nathan Sturgis, who has been in unbelievably good form, netted one in the 47th. Deshorn Brown subbed in at the half and scored in the 68th, assisted by Chris Klute, to give Colorado the 2-0 lead they were able to maintain through the final whistle.
While it is possible that perceptions of Colorado’s performance have been inflated by an underwhelming Red Bulls side, there were some truly stellar performances. Klute was on fire. I’ve been on Team Klute since day one and have often used words like “solid” to describe his play, but he’s had a little something special the last couple of games. He’s looking extremely confident and making some really smart plays. Another individual performance that really stood out to me was that of 19 year old Rapids Homegrown Player Shane O’Neill. Freshly back from US U-20 duty, he didn’t really do anything flashy, but quietly and consistently did his job, which included effectively shutting down Thierry Henry on multiple occasions. Just think on that for a minute: how awesome does it feel to be the 19 year old kid that repeatedly beat a legend like Henry!?
As a further testament to some of the Rapid’s standout individual performances, three players’ performances (Sturgis, Klute, and German Mera) earned them spots on Fantasy MLS’ Round 19 Dream Team.
Hopefully the quick turnaround between Thursday’s win and Sunday’s clash with DC United (again, at Dicks Sporting Goods Park) will allow the Rapids to ride the momentum of their two match streak rather than to experience a bout of three-matches-in-eight-days fatigue. If we can continue on this trajectory (and we should be able to against worst-in-the-league DCU), I think a playoff spot is realistically attainable. We’re getting there.
(image courtesy of Corbin Elliot Photography)