The Colorado Rapids continued their run of success on the Fourth of July in the Mile High City, defeating the Kansas City Wizards 2-1 on Monday night in front of a crowd of more than 40,000.
Ironically, the match-winner this Independence Day came from an Englishman, as Terry Cooke scored just four minutes after the Rapids leveled the score through Alain Nkong. Nkong's goal answered a goal early in the game from Kansas City's Chris Klein.
The first chance of the game fell to Colorado's Jean Philippe Peguero, who rose above the crowd for a header from an Eric Denton service in the fourth minute. Instead of heading the ball however, Peguero attempted a Diego Maradona impression by punching the ball into the goal, and he received a yellow card for his efforts.
The Wizards then took the lead in the eighth minute. Klein received a ball from Ryan Pore at the upper right corner of the penalty area, and had enough time to take three dribbles and set up his right foot for a screamer of a shot that curled around Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon, bounced off of the crossbar and down into the goal.
Although the Wizards were first on the scoreboard, the Rapids were controlling the tempo of the game and had the better of the early possession. The first quality chance for the Rapids came in the 27th minute when Luchi Gonzalez sent a free kick curling into the box straight to Jeff Cunningham, but his header went weakly over the bar.
Cunningham had another golden chance in the 29th minute. He dribbled across the top of the box, and when he saw an opening, attempted to float a ball over Bo Oshoniyi. Although the K.C. 'keeper was beaten by the chip, the ball went just past the post. Cunningham followed that up with another blistering long-distance shot in the 31st minute that Oshoniyi had no trouble saving.
Klein continued to provide all of the Wizards offense. In the 33rd minute, Jose Burciaga Jr. stole the ball from Nkong at midfield and after dribbling toward the Rapids box laid the ball off for a wide open Klein. His cracker of a shot unluckily caromed off the post and was cleared out of danger.
The 40th minute saw another apparent goal from Peguero from a free kick but for the second time in the game he had instead attempted to score by punching the ball into the net. Referee Abbey Okulaja was still not fooled by Peguero's subterfuge and without hesitation showed the Haitian international his second yellow card and dismissed him from the game.
Even a man down after the break, the Rapids kept up the pressure on the offensive end. Cunningham had yet another dangerous chance in the 54th minute when he slid in to try and meet a service from substitute Cooke to the near post, but Burciaga was right with him and deflected the ball out for a corner.
The Rapids finally got on the scoreboard in the 57th minute. Eric Denton sent a corner kick to the near post where it was met by Nkong who had the strength to fight off Diego Gutierrez's bear hug and head the ball down into the net off the bounce for his second goal of the season.
Cooke then hit home in the 61st minute, when his free kick was deflected by the wall which was enough to wrong-foot a diving Oshoniyi and allow the ball to slip through his grasp. The goal was the first of Cooke's MLS career.
After gaining the lead, the Rapids began to sit back in more of a defensive posture and allow the Wizards more possession. This plan nearly backfired in the 66th minute as Scott Sealy nearly connected on a cross from Burciaga.
The Rapids nearly gave up their lead in the 69th minute. Kyle Beckerman's attempted clearance was mistakenly directed toward goal but luckily just spun past the post and out for the corner. The corner kick bounced around the box and out to Burciaga whose volley deflected off of his own teammate and out for a goal kick.
Cunningham created another exciting chance in the 70th minute as he took a little touch and sped past Nick Garcia at midfield. Storming in alone on the breakaway, Cunningham tried to shoot for the far post, but Oshoniyi was well positioned to make a great save.
The Wizards continued to attack and their best chance of the half came in the 81st minute. Jack Jewsbury was able to get behind the defense to receive a cross, and after taking the ball to the end line cut the ball back across the box, but no Wizards player was able to get there before Denton was able to clear.
Cannon then made perhaps the save of the year to preserve the lead in the 89th minute. Jewsbury's shot deflected off Nat Borchers and was headed behind Cannon, but the Rapids goalie extended his feet for the spectacular kick save.
After four minutes of stoppage time, the Rapids walked away with their fifth win of the year, and stayed undefeated when they've been at a disadvantage after having a player sent off. It was their third victory in four games, the other a draw, when a man down.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Joe Cannon (Colorado Rapids)
Geoffrey Urland is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Kansas City Wizards (5-3-7) vs. Colorado Rapids (4-10-2)
July 04, 2005 -- Invesco Field at Mile High
KC -- Chris Klein 5 (Ryan Pore 1) 8
COL -- Alain Nkong 2 (Eric Denton 1) 57
COL -- Terry Cooke 1 (unassisted) 61
Kansas City Wizards -- Bo Oshoniyi, Sasha Victorine, Nick Garcia, Shavar Thomas, Jose Burciaga Jr., Chris Klein, Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Preki (Jack Jewsbury 67), Ryan Pore (Davy Arnaud 53), Scott Sealy.
Substitutes Not Used: Dustin Branan, Will Hesmer, Brian Roberts.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Chris Klein 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 17 (Nick Garcia 5); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Chris Klein 4); SAVES: 2 (Bo Oshoniyi 2)
Colorado Rapids -- Joe Cannon, Ricky Lewis (Terry Cooke 46), Nat Borchers, Mike Petke, Ritchie Kotschau, Alain Nkong (Dan Gargan 83), Leo Cullen, Eric Denton, Luchi Gonzalez (Kyle Beckerman 46), Jeff Cunningham, Jean Philippe Peguero.
Substitutes Not Used: Byron Foss, Hunter Freeman, Sasha Gotsmanov, Wolde Harris, Amir Lowery, Guy Melamed.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Jeff Cunningham 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Jeff Cunningham 2); FOULS: 11 (Mike Petke 4); OFFSIDES: 1 (Mike Petke 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Eric Denton 4); SAVES: 5 (Joe Cannon 5)
COL -- Jean Philippe Peguero (caution; Deliberate Handball) 4
COL -- Ricky Lewis (caution; Professional Foul) 36
KC -- Jose Burciaga Jr. (caution; Professional Foul) 39
COL -- Jean Philippe Peguero (ejection; Second Caution) 40
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: Robert Fereday; Anthony Vasoli
4th Official: Terry Vaughn
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-79-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.