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Mastroeni hands Rapids advantage over Crew

Mastroeni (Getty)

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:

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What did you think of the result? Can Colorado hold on to their slim lead? Will Columbus come back at home?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. There’s no away goals rule in the MLS playoffs. It’s total aggregate. I’m not sure one goal is enough for Colorado either, though I’d love to see them going through. What an entertaining forward tandem up top. Yikes!

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  2. One goal without giving up the away goal for Columbus is probably enough. They will score in Columbus and all they have to do is make sure Columbus doesn’t get three.

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  3. Crew played poorly yesterday. The defenders were overwhelmed; the strikers (before the substitutions) were barely noticable; everyone went down easily; dribbling into three opponents and long balls just didn’t work. The Crew was lucky to not have been down by more but the Rapids were also lucky that they didn’t pay the price late in the game for not putting away more of their chances. I’d expect a more defensive Colorado team that will be looking for the counterattack–their players were certainly have a lot more speed than the Crew.

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  4. The Crew has a lot to improve before the next leg. A lot of things went wrong for them, and I don’t know if you can fix it all:

    1) GBS has lost a lot of his sharpness, and he has shown that he can be contained.

    2) The Midfield lacks both chemistry and bite. They can’t get the ball, can’t keep the ball, and can’t move it forward effectively when they do.

    3)The Defense can’t do enough to stop good chances from coming in (as evidenced by 10 shots on goal in the first half).

    The Rapids issues?

    1) Rapids need to finish their chances and return to being more deadly in front of the goal.

    Rapids just need a short lecture to address the problem, Crew needs an entire seminar.

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  5. To me, Robbie Rogers played like he does for the USMNT; He looked like he was going to make plays, but he ended up making mistakes instead. I’m not sure what you mean when you say Frankie Hejduk was a ghost. He was horrible in the first half, but I didn’t notice him at all in the second half. So I guess he was haunting all the Crew fans in the first half and then he floated off to the afterlife in the second.

    Like you, I think Colorado did a good job on Schelotto, and that was one of the keys to the game. But even if he plays better in game 2, the rest of the Crew midfield and defense need to improve also. The one goal lead is not much, but I think it’ll be enough.

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  6. Colorado needed to do better than a 1-0 result in a game like that. The Crew will take the 2nd leg and advance to the conference finals. I guarantee it.

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  7. Caught the first half and enjoyed the action as a neutral. What stood out to me was the quality of Colorado’s attack and the chemistry between the strikers. Besides that, there was alot of sloppy play, particularly by the Crew. I have to think Colombus will play much better at home and echo the posts that are wondering if a 1 goal advantage will hold up.

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  8. A few thoughts: Robbie Rogers had a bad game; Frankie Hejduk was a ghost. They will be ready for the home leg. I think the Rapids have found that the way to disrupt the Crew is to pester Schelotto, who had a rough time finding the ball Thursday night.

    The Rapids back line played pretty well, but looked a bit vulnerable: Wynne got beat on a couple plays and Drew Moor turned a shaky beginning into a solid game, clearing up and out several crosses.

    If the Rapids win the midfield again, I think they will go on.

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  9. That was a brutal game. I don’t see either of those teams having a chance. Are Red Bulls fans already trying to buy tickets for the MLS Cup Final ?

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  10. I’m not really sure what Gary Smith/the Rapids were thinking tonight. They were at home and at altitude, yet they seemed content with a 1 goal lead. They were wasting time at the end of the game. They must have forgotten that they have a second game to play and they will lose their advantage in Columbus. A 1 goal lead probably won’t be enough.

    Reply

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