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Title defense ends in KC

November 2, 2011 | 9:13 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

Colorado spent 3,330 minutes this season defending the 2010 MLS Cup Championship, which put the team 180 minutes shy of defending its title.

Graham Zusi provided the services in the 28th and 76th minute as Sporting Kansas City recorded another 2-0 victory over the Rapids, giving KC a 4-0 aggregate win in the Eastern Conference Semifinal. Aurellian Collin and C.J. Sapong doubled the margin for Sporting, which beat the Rapids 2-0 on Sunday on the strength of two Teal Bunbury strikes.

A piecemeal lineup and a punchless attack characterized the disappointing finish to the season for the Rapids. Colorado came in desperate to gain a two-goal win to force overtime and backed by words of praise. But the end result was much like the rest of the season as the Rapids couldn’t find a breakthrough.

While the winners get to move on to face the winner of the Philadelphia Union-Houston Dynamo series on Sunday at Livestrong Sporting Park, the losing Rapids get to ponder what might have been.

The Few: With Drew Moor, Kousuke Kimura and Caleb Folan out with injuries suffered in the first leg against KC, Tyrone Marshall out serving a mandatory suspension for a red card in the first leg, Conor Casey, Jamie Smith and Anthony Wallace out for the season with injuries, and Pablo Mastroeni out since suffering a concussion on Oct. 14, the Rapids were not close to the side that won the 2010 title.

On Wednesday night, the team lacked rhythm and punch. Ultimately, the side paid the price.

Final 11: Here’s the lineup the Rapids fielded in the last match of the year: Matt Pickens, Wells Thompson, Marvell Wynne, Scott Palguta, Miguel Comminges, Brian Mullan, Joseph Nane (Macoumba Kandji 56), Jeff Larentowicz, Ross LaBauex (Eddie Ababio 80), Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 46), Sanna Nyassi.

On the bench were substitutes Andre Akpan, Danny Earls, Mike Holody and Steward Ceus.

Now, compare that with the squad that started the season against the Portland Timbers on March 19: Pickens, Kimura, Wallace, Wynne, Moor, Mullan (Thompson 88), Smith, Mastroeni (Nyassi 77), Larentowicz, Casey (Amarikwa 61), Cummings.

Found Wanting: The lineups tell the tale of how the depth of this squad was tested. Players had to play out of position and hunt for ways to score. The task proved more than the squad could manage.

What’s Next: The MLS expansion draft will unfold in three weeks. A conference call will determine who the Rapids lose, if anyone, to the new side in Montreal on Nov. 23.

Unless grabbed in the draft, expect Pickens, Wynne, Larentowicz, Cummings and Nyassi to be in the starting 11 for the foreseeable future. Thompson and Amarikwa’s energy make them likely returnees, too. Akpan and Palguta are also likely to stay thanks to their work rates. Kandji gets a return to the Rapids after spending most of the year rehabilitating his leg.

After that, it will be time to take a long look at the injured, the ineffective and the aging before starting the 2012 season. Among the injured, look for most of them to return. Moor and Kimura are defensive stalwarts. Wallace is a young player with promise. Casey, although aging, is the still the squad’s offensive spark. They’ll all be back.

Smith, who underwent successful ACL this week, adds spark, but has never settled in as a regular and can’t assume a roster spot will be waiting. Folan, who provided six goals, was a disappointment and is unlikely to return.

Mastroeni, the team captain, is a lock to return and play until he can’t anymore. Joining him on the high side of 30 are Marshall, who looks like he might have another year at center back, and Mullan, who can see the end from here, but can’t tell quite how far away it is.

As for the rest, now would not be the time to buy a house in the Denver area.

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