Pablo Mastroeni and Colorado teammates celebrate his goal.

Colorado Takes First Leg

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The Colorado Rapids emerged from their first-ever playoff game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park with a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on Thursday night.

Pablo Mastroeni’s first half strike in the 23rd minute proved enough to separate the teams.

Columbus looked the better team in the opening 10 minutes as the Rapids struggled to find a rhythm. But then Omar Cummings flew down the right flank and provided an almost perfect pass for Conor Casey, who found the ball just a few inches too far in front of him. That play jumpstarted the Rapids attack.

The two then combined in opposite form, as Casey slipped a wonderful ball through for Cummings. The Jamaican, however, was deemed offside with the goal begging.

As Colorado found their way around they pitch, they began to take control and turned the first half into a one-sided affair.

In the 21st minute, Cummings fired the first warning. After receiving a lobbed pass inside the 18-yard box, the speedy forward unleashed a dribbler that went just wide left.

Just two minutes later, however, another Casey-Cummings combination resulted in a Mastroeni goal. Casey dummied a Cummings cross at the near post and Mastroeni, making a franchise-tying 16th playoff appearance, slid in to bury the ball from close range.

The Rapids came out for the second half guns blazing. Just seconds in, Cummings found the ball on the right wing and dribbled inside to unleash a left-footed blast from 22 yards out that went just wide.

That momentum soon started to fade, however, as the Crew began to lock down their defense and move forward in search of the equalizer.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto had the first shot at tying the game in the 54th minute, when a defensive clearance ended up in front of him. The veteran Argentine took it on the bounce and sent it high.

The Crew would continue to pour on the pressure, but some key interventions from Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens kept the Rapids on top.

With seven minutes left in the match, Columbus came upon their best chance of the night. Eddie Gaven swung in a cross that Andy Iro rose to meet. The defender hammered a header towards the goal from about eight yards out, but Pickens reacted quickly to deny the chance.

The Rapids will travel next week to Columbus for the return leg November 6.


COL -- Pablo Mastroeni 1 (Conor Casey 1, Omar Cummings 1) 23


CLB -- Brian Carroll (caution; Reckless Tackle) 57

COL -- Pablo Mastroeni (caution; Tactical Foul) 92+


Columbus Crew -- Andy Gruenebaum, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Andy Iro, Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven, Shaun Francis, Brian Carroll (Kevin Burns 84), Robbie Rogers, Steven Lenhart (Jason Garey 68), Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Andres Mendoza 68).

Substitutes Not Used: Eric Brunner, Adam Moffat, Gino Padula, Chase Harrison.

Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura (Julien Baudet 89), Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Anthony Wallace, Brian Mullan, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Wells Thompson (Macoumba Kandji 75), Conor Casey, Omar Cummings.

Substitutes Not Used: Andre Akpan, Ross LaBauex, Claudio Lopez, Scott Palguta, Ian Joyce.

Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: George Gansner; Eric Boria
4th Official: Edvin Jurisevic
Attendance: 11,872