By TRAVIS CLARK
A Pablo Mastroeni goal was all that a domintant Colorado could muster, but the Rapids held on for the shutout and took a 1-0 advantage as the MLS playoffs opened Thursday night.
One year after losing on the road against a Western Conference team, Columbus opened up strong, taking the attacking initiative from the kickoff. But after the first ten minutes of the game, the Crew came apart. The lackluster midfield was unable to string together decent possession, and the defense carelessly turned the ball over. Colorado's attacked, spurred by Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and Brian Mullan, gave the Crew back line fits.
At that point, a goal seemed inevitable, and the Rapids found the back of the net in the game's 23rd minute. An errant Andy Iro clearence was collected by Mastroeni, who spotted Cummings on a diagonal run into the right corner. Cummings took the ball in space, firing in a low clearance that eluded Conor Casey, only for Mastroeni to follow the play and smash home into an empty net. It was the first playoff goal of Mastroeni's long MLS career.
Columbus continued to look out of sorts as the half progressed, but the Rapids lacked a killer, cutting edge, managing just two shots on frame despite firing 10 towards the goal in the game's first half.
Robert Warzycha must have had harsh words for his side at the half, but it had little effect straight away — Cummings pounced on another turnover, and lashed a shot wide.
Finally, in the 53rd minute, Emmanuel Ekpo cut a path through the Colorado midfield, laying off to a streaking Robbie Rogers. The midfielder managed to create some space in front of defender Anthony Wallace, and sent in a cross that Guillermo Barros Schelotto could only sky over.
As the second half progressed, Columbus steadied the ship, and finished on top by the game's end. Crew defender Andy Iro had the best chance of the game for his side — he was left unmarked on a second half corner kick, but his header fell close enough to Matt Pickens, who was able to make a nice reflex save.
The two sides will play the second leg of their playoff match on November 6 at Crew Stadium.
Here are the highlights from the match:
What did you think of the result? Can Colorado hold on to their slim lead? Will Columbus come back at home?
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