Christian Gomez was eager to show the soccer fans in Colorado that his one disappointing season toiling at Dick's Sporting Goods Park was not due to a lack of commitment or an erosion of skills, the reasons typically cited the most when explaining the former MLS Most Valuable Player's lackluster 2008 with the Colorado Rapids.
Unfortunately for Gomez and his D.C. United teammates, Saturday's road match against the Rapids ended just as many of Gomez's contests did last season while playing for Colorado -- with a lot of a shaking heads and more than a small measure of disappointment.
United watched their three-game unbeaten streak come to a screeching halt while the club's struggles in Colorado's mile-high atmosphere continued, as the Rapids handed the road side only its third loss of the season with a 3-0 decision at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Omar Cummings paced Colorado with two goals and an assist while D.C., playing its third game in as many time zones during an eight-day stretch, was unable to overcome a rash of injury issues surrounding some of the club's top offensive performers.
Gomez, reunited with his former D.C. teammates after a much-ballyhooed trade to Colorado ended in a failed experiment after the 2008 season, was unable to consistently create chances against his former Rapids mates, though the loss of top scorers Jaime Moreno (strained hamstring) and Luciano Emilio (knee contusion), in addition to the absence of midfielder Fred (strained adductor), limited United's chances to be creative in the attacking third.
"We're all professionals. We've all been through going back to a place where we either played or coached before," said United coach Tom Soehn, whose battered club will enjoy a much-needed two-week break before resuming MLS play at Columbus on July 4. "They're all pros. They know how to handle it.
"I think I underestimated how much that last game (Wednesday at Seattle) took a toll on us. If I would have to do it again, I probably would have made wholesale changes and got some of the other guys out. I just felt like we were tired tonight. We need a break right now. That's the point we're at. We need to get some guys rest, and we're going to use that time to get everybody where they need to be."
D.C. remains atop the Eastern Conference standings and did enjoy a little bit of good news on the injury front as veteran midfielder Ben Olsen returned to the lineup after missing the past five matches due to a strained hamstring. Olsen's return, however, was not enough for United to overcome the loss of their top finishers or find shackles for the speedy Cummings.
The Jamaican international ran past United defender Greg Janicki in the 11th minute to collect a through ball from Pablo Mastroeni from midfield, setting up an open look against United goalkeeper Josh Wicks, who was helpless to stop Cummings' line drive into the right side of the net.
Cummings produced his second tally in the waning moments of the half, intercepting a back pass and working around Wicks before placing a shot past last-chance defender Dejan Jakovic to give Colorado a 2-0 lead at the break.
D.C. posted five shots on goal but was unable to solve Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens, whose five saves included two beauties against solid header attempts from United rookie Chris Pontius.
"The first one was a tough angle and there wasn't much I could do with it and I was just trying to put it in play, but the second one was a great save," Pontius said. "And he made another great save off another one of our set pieces. He made some great saves and kept them in the game. If either one of those ones go in, the game changes drastically. That's the way the game goes sometimes."
Cummings added an assist on Colorado's final tally, setting up Colin Clark for a close-range shot that Wicks (three saves) was just able to get a hand on before the ball ricocheted into the corner of the net. That goal officially sealed United's fifth consecutive loss at Colorado and extended the club's road winless streak against the Rapids to 10 matches.
More pressing to United during their upcoming two-week hiatus, however, will be solidifying a defense that now has allowed six goals in its past two matches. United previously had allowed three goals in only one of their first 14 matches of the season and, before Wednesday's 3-3 draw at Seattle, had allowed only five goals in their previous five contests.
"The way we gave them goals were not the greatest ways," Olsen said. "Seattle, they did a pretty good job of earning goals. Tonight, we gave (Colorado) goals. If teams are good enough to play and earn goals, fine. But we gave up too many goals on our own accord."
Pat Rooney is a contributor to MLSnet.com.