Led by a pair of goals from Omar Cummings, the Colorado Rapids took advantage of D.C. United's busy schedule and rolled to a 3-0 victory Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The game was decided in a five-minute spell on either side of halftime and Cummings was the decider.
The victory extended the Rapids' undefeated streak to seven games while United lost for just the third time in 16 Major League Soccer games. D.C. remains winless in its past 10 matches at Colorado, including five losses in a row.
The Colorado Rapids striker picked up a suicidal back pass right at the end of the first half, rounding D.C. United goalkeeper Josh Wicks and calmly slotting home for his second goal of the game.
Then three minutes into the second half, Cummings turned provider as his persistence on the left saw him eventually cross to a wide-open Colin Clark, who netted the Rapids' third goal of the game and effectively killed off any resistance from the visitors.
Until the crucial backpass mistake, it looked as if D.C. might make the Rapids regret not making the most of the midfield dominance they were increasingly enjoying in the latter part of the first half.
Just seconds after Cummings' opener, United had come dangerously close to getting an equalizer after former Rapids midfielder Christian Gomez curled a wicked free kick into the penalty area and a header from D.C.'s Chris Pontius was expertly saved by Matt Pickens in the Colorado goal. The Rapids escaped and the decisive five-minute period ensued.
The Rapids had taken the lead in the 11th minute when Cummings was quicker to a Pablo Mastroeni through ball than the last D.C. defender and with just Wicks to beat, the Jamaican international coolly curled the ball into the right-hand corner from inside the penalty box.
Rapids head coach Gary Smith gave new acquisition Pat Noonan the start, pairing the former Crew player with Cummings upfront with Jacob Peterson slotting into a wide midfield role. Other than that, the Rapids' lineup was much as it has been all season, minus Conor Casey, who is still on duty with the U.S. national team in South Africa.
Other than the Cummings brace, the Rapids also came very close when Ugo Ihemelu slammed one against the post as Wicks flapped at a corner. The ball then came out to Mastroeni, who almost scored his first goal in four years for the Rapids, hitting one against the bar.
With a couple of good saves by Pickens, including another to deny Pontius, the Rapids protected their lead in the second half with little drama and ran out easy winners in the end.
The Rapids now face a quick turnaround for their next match, on Wednesday at home against FC Dallas, while D.C. United have until July 4 off, when they travel to take on the Columbus Crew.
Nick Thomas is a contributor to MLSnet.com.