Hard work pays off for Rapids

DENVER - The Colorado Rapids, a team that at the beginning of the season debuted a new coach and a lineup filled with new faces have begun the second half of the season sporting a new collective attitude.

Their 2-0 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday featured hard work, lots of possession, hard work, strong defensive pressure from the forwards and midfielders, and, oh yeah, hard work.

"Everybody to a man got sick and tired of the way we had been playing and now guys are dedicating themselves to doing not just what their job requires but going above and beyond," said center back Mike Petke. "You saw that from everyone tonight. If we can keep that up, we'll have a very good season."

In a season that has more often than not featured the Rapids booming long balls out of the back to their forwards, the Rapids midfield made a needed change tonight, passing well across the field and keeping the ball for long periods of time.

"When we keep possession, we play well and manage to come out with points," said Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo. "Today you really have to look at [Kyle] Beckerman's defense in midfield and Alain Nkong, who connected well with the forwards as keys for us."

Of course, possession comes easy when you have an early lead. Jeff Cunningham added to his league-leading scoring total in the seventh minute with his 11th tally of the season.

"The first goal kind of hit them hard; Jeff just went through all of their defense," said Rapids goalie Joe Cannon. "I didn't have much to do tonight. The defense came out and played well, but L.A. looked like we have on several occasions.

"They came out with really no energy, no passion. Credit our guys - I think our midfield and forwards worked extremely hard to not let them have any possession."

The win cuts the Galaxy's lead on the Rapids for third place in the Western Conference to only five points, and also keeps Colorado five points ahead of Real Salt Lake for the last Western Conference playoff spot.

"It was important to keep this five-point cushion because we've got three games with them coming up and two games with Chivas. We want to ensure that when we play Real at the end of the season, that there's no way that they can catch us," Cannon said.

The Rapids believe that this new attitude will continue to bring them good results down the home stretch.

"We have to keep playing the way we've been playing," said Clavijo. "The team showed attitude today. We had possession, we played the ball well, we made them pay."

Geoffrey Urland is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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