By TRAVIS CLARK
TORONTO – A successful strike partnership is an elusive weapon that few MLS teams have succeed in creating. The Colorado Rapids have been one of the few teams able to create a dangerous tandem, with Conor Casey and Omar Cummings emerging as the most effective tandem in league.
That pairing hit new heights this year thanks to Cummings enjoying a career year. In his third full season as a regular start, Cummings scored 14 goals, his career best, while chipping in three assists. His ability to play with Casey creates a handful that has really come to the forefront in the past two years.
Cummings and Casey were first started a game together back on August 9, 2008 against Toronto. Since then the duo has seen their career trend more or less trends upwards as they grow in understanding together.
"Our partnership has grown in the last couple of years," Cummings said. "We just try to improve on it each year. What we do well we try to continue, and stuff we don't do well we try to improve."
While Casey arrived in MLS after a The Jamaican's road there was a roundabout trip through the U.S. collegiate system. Drafted out of the University of Cincinnati in the third round by the Rapids, Cummings took half a season to make the jump from the reserve team to a regular starting role.
He managed to score two goals in 11 appearances during that first season in 2007. Since then, his starts, goals and assists have all steadily increased, as both Casey and Cummings continued to adjust and work on their partnership.
In 2009, the Casey-Cummings team stormed the league statistically. With Cummings playing the role of provider, Casey was in contention for the Golden Boot, scoring 16 goals, while Cummings led the Rapids with 12 assists and eight goals.
Although the Rapids missed the playoffs, it was a hint of things to come as the two continued to efficiently combine together.
"I think we work for each other very well. Whether I'm scoring goals, or he's scoring goals, we never stop working for each other, and that goes around the team," Cummings said.
This past year was the most successful in the goal-scoring department. Cummings led the way with 14 goals, while Casey finished one off that mark with 13. The two feed off each other on the field in many different ways with the speed of Cummings compliment the target man Casey.
"Conor draws a lot of pressure," Cummings said. "When he's there in the middle, I know when the ball's going to him, he can make a flick, control it, contain it, pass of to Pablo or Jeff, and I can make the run off him. That's the balance we've had all season, even last year."
The last two years of invaluable growth has paid dividends already — the danger posed by both, can turn an unimpressive Rapids performance into three points, and both have factored in the playoff run this postseason.
Heading into Sunday will provide one last chance for Cummings to score in the playoffs. He's chalked up two assists, and looked to have scored the game winner against San Jose, though it was correctly credited to Kosuke Kimura. The Jamaican doesn't see the weather favoring his Colorado side.
"I don't consider it an advantage," he said. "Yes, Dallas plays in Dallas, but their guys are from everywhere. I consider myself at something of a disadvantage because I am a Jamaican, I was born in the warm weather, love the warm weather."