COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids have struggled to score first in recent weeks. This week, though, they did it twice in the space of a few days and won both games.
On Wednesday, rookie Eddie Ababio scored the crucial first goal in a 3-1 victory over El Salvador's Isidro Metapan in Champions League action. Then on Saturday, Drew Moor headed home the first-and-only goal in the Rapids' 1-0 defeat of FC Dallas to earn Colorado their first MLS victory since Aug. 13.
“Scoring early always gives you confidence, and to score the early goal and see it all the way through is a huge win for us,” Moor said of his 26th-minute goal against his former club.
Wednesday’s win was an enormous boost for the Rapids, not least for the players who didn't travel to El Salvador as they were preparing for Saturday's vital MLS game. Part of that preparation included focusing on the opening period of the game, midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said.
“Going down and winning on Wednesday was great; it enlivened the locker room this week,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “Coming into this, we wanted to focus on the start of the game. Scoring first shows that we were on the front foot, and I think we probably outplayed them in that first half. In the end, we just had to hang on.”
The second half was a lot tighter, and Dallas did indeed cause some tricky moments for the Rapids as they fought to hold on to their precarious lead — especially in the last 15 minutes when they were playing down a man after left back Miguel Comminges received his second yellow card.
Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni, who last week called on his teammates to play simpler and more offense-minded soccer, said they were able to do just that in the first 45 minutes, though it was backs-to-the-wall stuff in the second half. The challenges of that second period will be something the squad will likely face if and when they get into the playoffs.
“It was a real tricky game,” Mastroeni said. “It felt like a playoff game. Everyone had to fight for every inch. Both teams were stingy, and it was a very competitive match.”
Head coach Gary Smith said it had been a struggle getting the players to believe in themselves recently given the recent string of poor results, which included a winless streak of five games. Both the midweek victory and Saturday's 1-0 win will go a long way in getting them in a much better frame of mind.
“We haven’t gone in front for what seems like forever, and, when we do, as with a lot of teams, it gives the players a lift and they see things in a different light,” Smith said.
“Everyone asks that question about where confidence comes from," Smith added. "Well, confidence gets built on nights like tonight. It builds belief, it gets everyone back on track. That’s two wins in a week, that will do us.”