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Real Espana closes season

September 21, 2011 | 10:02 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

Defenders Tyrone Marshall and Michael Holody can only watch as Carlos Pavon fires home his second goal on Wednesday night. (Photograph by Joel Baud/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

The Colorado Rapids season ended at about 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

The team will still play two more CONCACAF Champions League group stage games, four MLS regular season matches and one probable playoff game, but the disappointing 2011 season ended with the final whistle in Real Espana’s 2-1 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Wednesday night was a microcosm of Colorado’s defense of the 2010 MLS Cup Championship. The Rapids controlled play for long periods, but gifted two goals to Carlos Pavon. On the first, the defense failed to close down the attacker. On the second, reserve Rapids defender Michael Holody — who appeared unfamiliar with playing at altitude — headed the ball into Pavon’s path and the Honduran did the rest.

Andre Akpan brought the Rapids level with a goal out of the scrum after a corner kick in the 18th minute, and he nearly added another, hitting the post and going wide to both sides before halftime. Jamie Smith, who came on as a second half sub, blasted on goal in the 67th minute in one of the few threats Colorado managed out of its extended possessions.

Elsewhere, well-intentioned Wells Thompson played with vigor, Tyrone Marshall and Brian Mullan delivered solid, veteran performances, and Kosuke Kimura remained a dynamo at right back. None of that was enough, however, to keep alive a CCL campaign that has seen Colorado drop two of three home mathces and fall to 1-2-1.

Making the quarterfinals would take a win at a Santos Laguna side that thumped Colorado 4-1, and points at Isidro Metapan, which lost 3-2 to the Rapids in the CCL opener. After Wednesday, neither are looking likely.

This faltering in the regional competition reflects the larger difficulty in trying to defend an improbable championship. Colorado has lost five straight in all competitions and is winless in the past seven matches. The team has been shutout twice in MLS play in a dismal streak that comes just as playoffs approach.

Now, the squad is left playing out the string. A couple of points in the final four matches will secure an MLS playoff spot, but the Rapids are showing no signs of an attack that can make it past one match against a quality opponent.

Instead, it’s time to start thinking about the 2012 campaign. Does this crew have enough to be more than mediocre? The 2011 results say no.

At least the passion was there, as Wells Thompson found when he was nearly choked following a referee's whistle. (Photograph by Joel Baud/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

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