COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The way the Colorado Rapids’ season has gone to date, you almost knew it was going to happen.
In the 62nd minute of the Rapids’ 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, LA’s Robbie Keane stepped up to take a penalty kick. Sure enough, the veteran Irishman blasted his effort wide of the goal, another big break for Colorado in a season filled with them so far, contributing to their eye-catching 4-2-2 record.
That play and several others – from two big misses from Landon Donovan to two desperate goal-line clearances that went in Colorado's favor – may have left some feeling like there was someone wearing burgundy watching from above. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena called it a game his team "should never lose." But good luck selling luck as a factor in the Rapids’ hot start to head coach Pablo Mastroeni.
“By no stretch of the imagination do I feel anything about a [soccer] ‘god’,” Mastroeni said emphatically after Saturday's game. “I feel that everyone earns their luck. I think luck is hard-earned. You can only get penalty kicks when you play on that side of the field. You get breaks when you work hard for those breaks. You can only get a PK called in your favor if you’re playing on the other side of the field.”
While Mastroeni does not believe the Rapids have been lucky en route to collecting their 14 points on the season, the first-year head coach acknowledged that Colorado have been on the right side of many 50-50 plays and calls.
After all, half of the Rapids’ 10 goals this season have come via penalty kick or off of the rebound of one, and the Rapids got to play Toronto FC without both Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe last month in a 1-0 win. Saturday’s missed penalty from Keane was just the latest example.
“We’ve been fortuitous to receive PKs," Mastroeni said. "You know they’re going to come against you. It’s just a great sense of relief that you feel, like [Saturday], we’re going to win the game when things like that go your way. Again, momentum, spirit of the team, things not going their way, chances going our way; it’s a big, dynamic melting pot of energy.”
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The Rapids have had to contend with their own challenges, especially in terms of player health. From Vicente Sánchez’s nagging knee pains to Dillon Powers’ knee tendonitis to Chris Klute’s hamstring, Colorado have not dodged the injury bullet by any means. They also saw Deshorn Brown’s fantastic 44th-minute effort crash off the post on Saturday, a chance that could have doubled the their lead just before the half.
“You earn what you get in life. You earn what you get in games,” Mastroeni said. “There’s no gods. You are moving parts and ways that the ball falls in your favor or it doesn’t. I don’t believe in all that stuff.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.