Freddy Adu

RSL, Rapids set for Primetime battle

who was the second-youngest goalkeeper to start a game in MLS history -- and when he handled the ball, referee Abbey Okulaja called for an indirect free kick in the penalty area.
• Colorado's Herculez Gomez sent the ball under the wall and into the back of the net on the first attempt, but Okulaja had not whistled for play to restart. So on the second chance, Gomez's shot banged into the wall -- but the rebound went back to Kyle Beckerman, and he lashed a low shot through the goalmouth scrum into the goal.
• Here's John Ellinger's team (4-2-3-1): Chris Seitz - Jack Stewart, Eddie Pope, Daniel Torres, Willis Forko (Atiba Harris 78) - Jason Kreis, Carey Talley - Chris Klein, Mehdi Ballouchy, Freddy Adu - Jeff Cunningham. Substitutes Not Used: Nikolas Besagno, Chris Brown, Duke Hashimoto, Chris Lancos, Nick Rimando, Jamie Watson
• Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Bouna Coundoul - Ugo Ihemelu, Pablo Mastroeni, Mike Petke, Greg Vanney - Terry Cooke (Nico Colaluca 69), Kyle Beckerman, Jovan Kirovski, Herculez Gomez (Dan Gargan 88) - Roberto Brown, Nicolas Hernandez. Substitutes Not Used: Jose Cancela, Conor Casey, Zach Thornton, Daniel Wasson, Chris Wingert

The Colorado Rapids returned home and lost for the first time at their new Dick's Sporting Goods Park home, going ahead through an early goal only to be hit for three goals in 14 minutes in the second half in a 3-1 loss to Houston Dynamo last Saturday. The Rapids remain tied for the top spot in the Western Conference with seven points from five games, same as Houston and FC Dallas (the Hoops have played one more game).

• The Rapids were returning home after splitting two games on their road trip, the last a win at Real Salt Lake, while Dynamo were coming off back-to-back 1-0 defeats, having scored just one goal on the season.
• The Rapids took a very early lead on a strange night in Commerce City. A free kick was driven into the area, and trickled through to where a pair of Rapids players were standing all alone in the heart of the box. The ball came to Roberto Brown, and he turned and stabbed it home after just five minutes.
• But after the break, Dynamo hit for a three-goal blitz to finally break out of their scoring slump. Brad Davis served in a low cross from the left and Brian Ching came sliding in to knock it home ahead of Rapids 'keeper Bouna Coundoul (55).
• Dwayne De Rosario then scored twice within six minutes. First, he took the ball near the center circle and went haring forward up the center of the field before driving a wicked blast that sailed past Coundoul to his right and into the upper corner of the goal (63).
• Then Ching tried to force a pass through from the right, saw the ball knocked away by Pablo Mastroeni in the goalmouth, then hit Coundoul and roll away toward the goal. De Rosario came sliding in to push the ball the final couple of inches over the line and make 3-1 for Colorado in the 68th minute.
• Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo made one change to the team that defeated Real Salt Lake the Monday before in Utah. Ugo Ihemelu was suffering from knee tendonitis, so Dan Gargan came in at right back in his place.
• Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Bouna Coundoul - Dan Gargan, Pablo Mastroeni, Mike Petke, Greg Vanney - Terry Cooke, Kyle Beckerman, Jovan Kirovski, Herculez Gomez - Roberto Brown (Nico Colaluca 72), Nicolas Hernandez (Conor Casey 61). Substitutes Not Used: Jose Cancela, Omar Cummings, Zach Thornton, Daniel Wasson, Chris Wingert
• "We never played with the attitude that we needed to play with, we could never get going. We just never looked like we were the team and the attitude that we needed to win," Clavijo said. "Little by little they started possessing the ball better and passing the ball better, and we could never get going and we paid the price for it. We lost the ball way too easy, and they were not even putting us under pressure, we just lost it in transition."

• While it wasn't the first loss of the season for the Rapids, they felt it was their poorest game of the season. They had lost 3-1 at FC Dallas, but felt they had the better of the chances in that game in Frisco.
• "We could not possess, we could not pass it, and we lost it very easily out of the midfield," Clavijo said. "I thought that Kyle [Beckerman] and Jovan [Kirovski] were too deep. They never really participated in the offense until the last 10 minutes. There was a lot of room for them (Houston) to break through the midfield."
• Clavijo was also missing two of his first-choice defenders for the contest. Brandon Prideaux will be out for up to the next month with a torn meniscus, and Ugo Ihemelu developed knee tendonitis in the week leading up to the Houston match after the game on the artificial surface in Salt Lake, also suffering a knock in a collision with Freddy Adu.
• "It's still early in the season," Clavijo said of the decision to rest Ihemelu. "He is a big factor for us at the back; we don't want to risk losing him for more than just one game. He should definitely be back by Thursday. It is one of those things that if you use him today you may lose him for more than one game."
• The Rapids had also started the season as a high-pressure team, beginning with the victory against D.C. United in the season opener. But against Dynamo, they dropped off after getting the opening goal.
• "We sat back a little bit because we got the goal," Terry Cooke said. "You've got to go and get the second, go and get the third. We've got to start punishing teams here. You keep it one-nil as long as possible, sooner or later they're going to get a chance. They got three chances the second half and put it in the back of the net."
• As the Rapids dropped off, Dynamo sensed the chance to turn the momentum around and it succeeded. "We controlled the game at halftime, one-nil. Second half they seemed to throw more people up front and it took us out of our rhythm, out of our game," Cooke said. "They were sending more bodies forward and we couldn't cope with that. It killed us - they got three early goals in the second half in the space of 20 minutes and it killed the game."
• The Rapids also felt they needed to return to the recipe that made the early games such a success.
• "We should be killing teams at home," Cooke said. "We've got to use the pitch to our advantage. ... We didn't keep the ball in certain areas and we got punished for it. That's the thing we have to work on, is building the ball to the final third, keeping the ball in their box and be more patient with it and create chances, because even with the first goal, we didn't create anything.

Real Salt Lake still have yet to win on the campaign, but the first game with Jason Kreis in charge felt more like a win than a draw, RSL coming back from two goals down in the 90th minute to secure a 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls last Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Real are still at the foot of the Western Conference table with three points from five matches, a point behind the Los Angeles Galaxy and four behind the three-way first place tie.

• Real came into the game winless in their four games to begin the season and goalless for more than five hours of play, which led to John Ellinger being relieved of his head coaching duties and replaced by Kreis, still the league's all-time leading goalscorer. They were facing a Red Bulls with three wins and a draw in four games - and without a goal conceded on the year.
• Things didn't start out well for Kreis in his coaching debut, as the Red Bulls struck twice in the opening half-hour. First, Dave van den Bergh lofted a high ball over the RSL defense and Dane Richards outpaced his man to get onto the end of it, poking past Chris Seitz in the penalty area on the bounce (12). Then Clint Mathis scored for the first time against his former club, getting onto the end of another van den Bergh through ball and coolly slotting under Seitz to give New York a 2-0 lead after 28 minutes.
• Real finally became the first team to score on the Red Bulls when they pulled a goal back in the 61st minute - and took a beauty. Chris Klein cut across the top of the penalty area from the right and cracked a curling left-footed shot that beat Ronald Waterreus high inside the far corner.
• But Mathis seemed to have completed the misery for his old friend Kreis in the 83th minute, again doubling the lead in the 83rd minute when he headed home a Dema Kovalenko cross from close range.
• Yet Real weren't done. Carey Talley took a bump from Red Bulls center back Jeff Parke in the area while jostling for a corner kick, and referee Ricardo Salazar pointed to the spot, where Jeff Cunningham converted for his third goal of the season.
• Then two minutes into stoppage time, it took another stunning strike from Real to tie the match. He chased down a long ball in the right side of the area, cut back around a defender to get an angle and ripped a rising drive high inside the far corner.
• Kreis made one change from the last team that John Ellinger ran out - as he had to replace himself in midfield. Instead, he started Atiba Harris in attack alongside Jeff Cunningham, going with a 4-4-2 system after Ellinger had used a 4-2-3-1 scheme from the start of the season.
• Here's Kreis' team (4-3-1-2): Chris Seitz - Jack Stewart (Chris Brown 63), Eddie Pope, Daniel Torres, Willis Forko - Chris Klein, Carey Talley, Freddy Adu - Mehdi Ballouchy - Jeff Cunningham, Atiba Harris. Substitutes Not Used: Nikolas Besagno, Duke Hashimoto, Dustin Kirby, Chris Lancos, Nick Rimando, Jamie Watson
• "We tied the first game of the year and we all walked away as if we lost, and now we've tied this game and we're feeling as if we won - and to be honest, we should," said Kreis. "When we come back from a two-goal deficit, it's a huge boost to everyone's mentality involved, and we need that in a big way right now. That could be a very good starting point for us at this point."

• To the Real players, the late comeback reflected what Jason Kreis will bring as head coach of the team.
• "I thought the biggest thing that we were going to miss [on the field] would be his heart and his fight and his passion that he brought to the team," Klein said. "The way that we fought tonight showed that it can bleed into the team by having him on the sidelines. The way that we fought and the way that we battled back really showed his personality and the type of coach that Jason Kreis is going to be."
• Kreis said he felt repaid for his belief in his former teammates - and now current charges - in the protagonists of the Real fightback.
• "Three of my closest friends on my team when I played made incredible plays for me," he said. "Chris Klein scored an unbelievable goal, and he was one of my closest friends and confidants as a player. Carey Talley gets up for a header in the box and gets knocked halfway unconscious - he was one of my closest friends in Dallas, and now here. Chris Brown scored and electric goal for the third one and he was also one of my closest friends. So, emotionally, that meant a lot to me."
• Real Salt Lake had been shut out in three consecutive games before coming back for their 3-3 tie last weekend against New York. They had not scored a goal for more than six hours (369 minutes), before exploding for three goals in 30 minutes against a team that hadn't allowed a goal all year to that point.
• "This should give us a lot of confidence, especially scoring three goals," Brown said. "It bodes well for us offensively; we just need to shore up things in the back. [Thursday's] a big rivalry game against Colorado and hopefully we can steal some points there."
• Kreis changed the team's tactics in his first game in charge - and felt he had put his team in a hole himself, going in 2-0 at halftime.
• "Obviously, New York created some tactical problems in the first half, and I take full responsibility for that. The addition of Clint [Mathis] really caused us some problems tactically in the first half," Kreis said. Said Adu: "We just wanted to press, we did not want to lose. We busted our butts for two games and it starts to get very tough when you lose games. We switched to a new formation, guys felt good and confident about it, meaning we have more options because we have two up top. We put a lot of pressure on their backs it paid off at the end."
• Cunningham scored his third goal of the season, now giving him 93 for his MLS career. He features high on the all-time goalscoring leaders for both clubs. His three goals this year have moved him to the top of the RSL all-time list, with 19 goals scored for the club. In his one season with the Rapids (2005), he scored 12 goals, good enough to rank him 11th on that club's all-time list. Cunningham is fourth on the all-time MLS list with 93 career league goals.
• "I give every single player on the pitch tonight my congratulations. They stepped up and got the job done," Cunningham said. "I didn't play particularly well tonight, had two chances I should have done better with. But my teammates stepped up for me and secured a point for us. I can keep my head up and look forward to the next game."

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