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Eastern Conference Championship

Rapids' Cila produces for hometown

Jordan Cila lived the perfect soccer evening Wednesday, scoring his first two professional goals in front of hoards of family and friends to lift the Colorado Rapids out of last place with a 3-2 road victory against the MetroStars. Cila, from nearby Jericho, N.Y., capped the evening by scoring the game-winning goal one minute from time, giving the Rapids three goals in a game for the first time this season.

"Every win in this league is big, but this takes us out of last place and puts us in the middle of the pack in our division," Cila said while agreeing that the win at Giants Stadium was the biggest for the Rapids in 2004. "To get our second straight win on the road, to get six out of six points on the road right now, is huge."

Cila, 22, was appearing in only his fourth professional game and he did not make his first start until last weekend in Columbus. He played an opportunistic match, scoring to put Colorado on top in the 13th minute, and again to earn his club the full three points in the 89th minute.

"Players that were rookies at the beginning of the year that had not been tested in any games, they've stepped up and that's when you become a team - it's when you're confident in players from one through the development squad," said Rapids coach Tim Hankinson. "It's very exciting for us because a night like tonight when we wanted to not stress Pedro's (Peguero) groin injury, trying to get him some rest, we had to turn to Jordan again and get Alberto (Delgado) in his first minutes, and these guys stepped up and are earning their battle scars. It's exciting to see."

The first strike materialized when Delgado -- in his first MLS start and the only player on the field with less league experience than Cila -- drew two defenders his way while holding possession in the upper right corner of the penalty area. He laid a pass over to Cila, who drilled a shot past a diving Ricardo Clark to the far post past Jonny Walker.

"I got a good pass in, a square ball from Alberto," Cila said. "I got a good hit on it, and it's just a great feeling just getting that first goal. Being able to score in front of family and friends meant a lot to me."

At 5-10, Cila is hardly a target player on set pieces, and his job during corner kicks is to hold his ground in the six-yard box and make the most of any rebounds.

"It worked perfectly," he said about the game-winning goal. "We had a knockdown in the six. Luckily, one of our guys beat them in the air and the ball just came to me in a perfect spot."

Said Hankinson: "We won this game on guts, plain and simple. The MetroStars are a very talented in the way they could pick you apart. ... But we just stayed at it, we told the players at halftime to go on the offensive and go out and win the game and whether the result goes our way, we were not going to sit on our heels like we did in the first half. The guys battled and it's just a game of guts."

Not only did the Rapids score three goals for the first time this season, Cila became the first Rapid to score twice in a game since John Spencer on the final day of the 2003 regular season.

"I think it was a combination of everything," Cila said of his club's anemic attack, which saw them score only nine goals in a dozen matches prior to Wednesday. "We were missing a lot of chances. Forwards go through tough spells as much as any player on the field. Fortunately we played well enough defensively as a team to stay in games. Now the goals are coming. Now hopefully we'll continue the streak and continue the momentum."

MetroStars coach Bob Bradley was less thrilled, especially with the way his team allowed two goals over the final 11 minutes.

"When we got the lead I thought that we stopped putting passes together," he said. "We stopped playing and tried to look for the one pass that was going to make the goal. We lost a little bit on that end. When you don't get that third goal you're still susceptible to two plays on set pieces," Bradley said.

"It's a disappointing loss. For me the main part of it started when we took the lead. I didn't think that we kept playing like we needed to in terms of connecting passes and keeping the pressure on them."

The MetroStars are still in first place, but once again their coach was left rueing points lost.

"I think the disappointment is that there has been too many games where we should walk away with points and we don't. There's something there in terms of a stronger mentality to finish games and continue to play the way we can in our good stretches," Bradley said. "We have to get that right."

Dan Lauletta is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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