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LaBrocca, Kimura stifle RSL

May 3, 2009 | 1:19 am 5
By George Tanner

When you get goals from Kosuke Kimura and Nick LaBrocca, you’ve got to make them count.

And the Colorado Rapids did just that, beating Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday night at a rainy Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

rmcup-inside2In the 11th minute, LaBrocca a midfielder who is usually asked to play a defensive role on the team (last week he actually replaced Kimura on defense), scored to give the Rapids a 1-0 lead in the first game of the Rocky Mountain Cup series. Conor Casey pierced the Salt Lake defense with a ball up the left wing to Colin Clark, who chipped over a few other players at the near post and found LaBrocca in the middle of the box. LaBrocca easily headed the ball past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

“He was our man of the match,” Rapids coach Gary Smith said of LaBrocca, who started and played the full 90 minutes. “I thought he was a driving force in that midfield. The goal really capped a very good performance on a night against a very good Salt Lake side.”

Salt Lake was dealt two blows late in the second half. Rimando left the game in the 35th minute after a collision with Casey, and defender Jamison Olave received a red card for a foul on Casey in the 41st minute.

At the hour mark, Kimura, whose parents were in town for the game, scored the first goal of his Major League Soccer career. Casey chased down a long ball deep in the left corner then tapped back to Jordan Harvey. His cross was slightly behind Terry Cooke on the right side of the penalty area, but Cooke dropped the ball off for onrushing Kimura. The right back’s low liner sliced past goalkeeper Kyle Reynish and punched the net at the bottom left corner.

“I thought he had one of his better games on the ball,” Smith said of Kimura. “He’s one of those individuals that will create a spark going forward. If we could put some sort of gauge on him, the amount of ground he covers, I imagine it’s as much as anyone else on the pitch.”

With the man advantage, the Rapids played a possession game in the second half that Salt Lake could rarely crack. The visitors were not able to put a shot on goal in the match.

A TASTE FOR GOAL: Kimura apparently enjoyed scoring the goal. In the 82nd minute, he was pushing forward so far he was called for offside.

THE THIRD GOAL THAT WASN’T: The match could’ve been a rout early on. In the 16th minute, Casey headed the ball into the RSL goal, but the play was disallowed. Omar Cummings, on the right side of Real’s penalty area, chipped the ball masterfully to the opposite side, where Casey headed the ball from an impossible angle through an impossible gap between a defender and the goalpost. But referee Edvin Jurisevic waved it off. Why? “You tell me,” Smith said. “Only here would that happen, at this ground. It seems commonplace that something unusual happens. Somebody whispered in my ear that Omar’s cross went out and came back in or that Conor’s header was off the pitch when he headed it back in, which I can’t believe. It would’ve been an absolute miracle. Offside, somebody else said. Probably a combination of all three.”

MAN OF THE MATCH: Smith picked LaBrocca, so I’ll go with that. “The type of player Nick is is a value to any football team in any league anywhere in the world. He’s so versatile. He’s played right-hand side; he’s played left-hand side. He slotted in at right back last week when Kosuke was stretchered off. He’s a talented and intelligent footballer. When you ask Nick to do a job, he can do it. … I think if we look back at the footage, you’d see a lot of industry, a lot of determination and energy in his game. And I think that’s a mark of the group. ” Casey played a strong game, although he didn’t score. He got an assist on LaBrocca’s goal because the scorekeepers awarded two assists. There also were two assists on the Kimura goal, but Casey would’ve had one if the scorekeepers had awarded three. On the free kick that followed the RSL red card, Casey nearly scored on a header.

AS THE DERBY TURNS … Earlier this week, I asked if Kyle Beckerman or Pablo Mastroeni would pick up a yellow card first. It was Beckerman in the 87th minute. The over-under in Vegas was halftime. So if you had “over,” you win!

SCOTT PALGUTA STARTS AGAIN: Once again Cory Gibbs was out of the lineup. Gibbs was practicing with the Rapids midweek, the team said, but he was not yet match-fit after battling a groin injury. Scott Palguta, who signed with the Rapids after four years with the Rochester Rhinos, a USL first-division team, has started the past two games at center back. “Scott has stepped in and been very reliable,” Smith said. “It’s a big ask for the lad, stepping up from league one. He’s reliable on the ball. He doesn’t get flustered for a center back. And when all is said and done, you want players in those positions who can compete. He’s become a great part of our group, and we think he’s done a tremendous job. We’re very pleased with him.”

PICKENS RETURNS IN GOAL: Matt Pickens, who started the Rapids’ first two games of the season but then left the lineup with back spasms, was back in net on Saturday. Smith said the decision to start Pickens over Preston Burpo, who was 2-1-2 in all competitions after replacing Pickens, was difficult. “I’ve said all along we have two first-choice goalkeepers,” Smith said. “Preston had been fantastic. I just felt … it was the right moment to give Matt his opportunity again. And, as expected, Preston was extremely disappointed, and rightly so. But I have to make decisions, and hopefully they’ll be the right ones.” Real Salt Lake did not record a shot on goal, so perhaps it was a good opportunity to ease Pickens back into the lineup after being off for  about a month.

ATTENDANCE ISSUES: Another lousy weather day and another lousy crowd for the Rapids. Official tally was 9,045, but my spotter put Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 20 percent full. For example, fewer than 20 people were in section 120. Maybe about the same in 114. The weather played a factor. But until we see the size of the crowd on a warm-weather night, we won’t know just how much of a factor the bad weather is.

THE NORTHEAST CORNER: Congratulations to the RSL fans, who made a stadium’s worth of noise from their one section. And considering the scarcity of Rapids fans at Dick’s on Saturday, the stadium needed the Utah fans’ exuberance. Good on ya!

VICTORY WAY HOOLIGANS: Soccer fans averting their eyes from the halftime activities on the field may have seen the Rocky Mountain Cup start to make its way around the concessions concourse.  The trophy was escorted by supporters of the current holders. Progress was slowed about even with midfield, however, when the RSL fans were verbally accosted by less-than-gracious hosts.  Cooler heads prevailed when someone’s mother advised the sparring groups to “just walk away, boys.”  It wasn’t quite “Eurotrip,” but the rivalry is still young.

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5 Comments »

  • Shaun Schafer said:

    One concern that emerged in the night was the positioning of Colin Clark and Jordan Harvey after the Rapids got a man advantage. The two were absolutely static in moving up the sideline. They clung to the touchline as little as 10 yards apart. When either got the ball, the favorite move was to try and force a pass along that touchline, or carry the ball forward along the touchline. They needed to move diagonally, and either of them needed to pinch in to open up space.

    Kimura and Cooke did a much better job of sharing the space and creating openings by moving into creases. This led to Kimura’s offsides call, and it led to a nice attack five minutes before he scored. The left side did not perform as well.

  • wahleyed said:

    On Clark and Harvey -
    I don’t know much on the nuances of soccer, but it seems to me that Clark is reluctant to let Harvey overlap? Maybe just a part of his overall aggressiveness this season? or maybe tactical decision on the part of the coaching staff?

  • George Tanner (author) said:

    as long as we’re talking about tactics, i’d like to see the rapids rely less on crosses coming in from the wings. now, they’re not a bad thing. both goals saturday came from crosses from the wings (clark served labrocca’s goal, and harvey began kimura’s goal with the cross to cooke). but what made the acquisition of christian gomez last year so exciting to me was that they finally had a player who would attack up the middle. now that gomez is gone, i would still love to see more of that from these rapids,

  • three11stu said:

    Thanks for acknowledging the RSL fans that made the trip. We had a great time in Colorado, even though we got beat pretty bad. My wife and I look forward to making this a yearly trip.

  • George Tanner (author) said:

    stu! every RSL fan i saw was well-behaved and good-mannered. we were happy to have you here! And you and the other RSL fans have inspired me. Check out this week’s Tuesday List …

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