COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids may not have been panicking about the recent run of six straight draws, but there was no doubt confidence was ebbing a little as the MLS Cup champions appeared unable to put away games even as they remained unbeaten.
That feeling likely haunted the players and coaching staff on Saturday — at least until the very last seconds of the game when Drew Moor stepped up and put away the winner in a penalty box scramble to defeat the Portland Timbers, 1-0.
Moor mentioned after the game that he didn’t see the goal as such a huge relief, but his celebration as he ran towards the dugout may have said otherwise.
With first-team players coming back from injury and with Western Conference leaders LA Galaxy coming to town this weekend, the long-awaited win may turn into a season-turning moment for the Rapids. Head coach Gary Smith said before the weekend he wanted four points from the two Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy games.
He will be rethinking that wish now.
“I hope this just gives the lads that added bit of confidence and composure,” Smith said. “LA are setting the pace and Saturday’s game will offer us the chance to keep close on their heels.”
One of the problems the Rapids have had of late is scoring goals. With so many different permutations at striker, it has been difficult to get into a real rhythm. However, Smith liked the partnership of Conor Casey and Caleb Folan upfront on Saturday, and praised their work rate.
“They showed a lot of physical strength and applied a lot of pressure,” he said. “But there’s always going to be some misunderstandings.”
Despite the Rapids' depth at forward line, the truth is the team has missed Omar Cummings' speed. The Jamaican, out with an ankle injury since May 4, was left at home for the Portland game but is expected to make some kind of appearance this coming weekend.
“Just to see him out here [at training] is really exciting,” Smith said. “The sooner we can get him back in the team, the sooner we can get him building partnerships.”
Other key players returning include Marvell Wynne, who has missed two games with a hamstring problem and was originally expected to be out for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, Brian Mullan 10-game suspension will be served following the LA game.
Additionally, Macoumba Kandji is due to be back in full training soon.