The Colorado Rapids showed their Fourth of July spirit Friday night, matching their season high as they embarrassed the struggling New York Red Bulls in a 4-0 victory and made an emphatic movement toward reclaiming their own season.
In their last five matches against each other, one goal was all it took for either the Rapids or the Red Bulls to earn a win. So when Tom McManus touched a feed from Colin Clark in the 24th minute, slipping the ball in between goalkeeper Jon Conway and the post, the Rapids had reason to feel confident.
Set free down the left wing by Facundo Erpen, Clark raced down the flank and then found McManus at the far post, who quickly redirected the pass home before Conway could react to stop its path to the net.
Mired in a four-game winless streak coming into the match, the Rapids took nothing for granted, following with another goal in the 37th minute to double their lead. Terry Cooke came all the way down the right side to collect a pass from Conor Casey before making a short cross to Mehdi Ballouchy at the near post, who drilled first-time it past Conway for his first goal of the season and a comfortable lead for the Rapids.
A few minutes later Bouna Coundoul had his first significant test of the match, stopping a close range cannon shot from Dave van den Bergh to maintain Colorado's edge. Coundoul snared another ball moments later, a cross from the endline that the Rapids 'keeper got hold of before a Red Bulls attacker could get to it.
The Independence Day celebration by the Rapids, featuring a massive fireworks display, had seen the club win 10 of its 12 previous Fourth of July home games (with one draw).
By the 49th minute, it was clear the fireworks were coming early at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, as a long ball found Clark on the left side. After nearly losing possession, he regained the ball, rounded midfielder Dane Richards, and raced unmolested into the area before sending a hard shot inside the far corner, giving the Rapids a commanding 3-0 lead and kicking the celebrations into high gear around the soldout park containing a record crowd.
It was the first time the Rapids had scored three goals in a match since their Opening Day 4-0 win against L.A., and the offensive surge offered a much-needed spark to a team desperately trying to stay in the playoff hunt.
It took Omar Cummings three attempts to match Colorado's season high, starting in the 57th minute as he beat out two defenders to catch a long loose ball, giving him a one-on-one situation with Conway. Cummings shot wide, however.
He then missed another opportunity in the 63rd minute, emerging with the ball from amidst a tangle of defenders in front of the goal and having an open net when Conway fell down. The ball slipped away from Cummings before he could get a shot off, but he didn't relent in his attempt to create opportunities.
Cummings finally found the net in the 68th minute, as Ballouchy crossed a ball from the left side to McManus on the right and McManus tapped it back to Cummings, who cleared a defender for another one-on-one with Conway that left the 'keeper helpless to stop the shot to his left.
Colorado played aggressively throughout the match, owning a 12-5 advantage in shots and a 5-2 edge in attempt on target. It marked the third time this season the Red Bulls have allowed four goals or more, all in the last eight games.
The victory moved Colorado from sixth to fourth place in the Western Conference for the moment, and signaled the revitalization of an offense that scored as many goals Friday night as it scored in its last four matches combined.
The Rapids head back on the road in an attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, traveling to play San Jose next Saturday. The Red Bulls remain on the road, facing the Wizards in Kansas City on Thursday, July 10.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.