Colorado edges Columbus in MLS playoffsOct 28, 2011 - 4:44 AM Commerce City, CO (Sports Network) - The Colorado Rapids took the first step toward defending their MLS Cup championship Thursday night.
Omar Cummings scored in the final seconds of the first half and Colorado edged the Columbus Crew, 1-0, in the wild-card round of the playoffs on frigid night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Colorado defeated Columbus last season in the Eastern Conference semifinals on penalty kicks, and will face Sporting Kansas City in this season's East semis. The first leg of the two-game series is Sunday at 7 p.m. (ET) in Colorado.
Sporting, the regular season Eastern Conference champion, will host the second leg on Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ET) at Livestrong Sporting Park.
Colorado (1-0-0) entered the postseason unbeaten in nine home games, including a 2-0 win over Columbus on Aug. 5, and the hosts were the better side again in the opening round of the playoffs.
With the temperature at 32 degrees at kick off, it was no surprise it took the clubs time to settle into the match, with the first chance coming through Crew midfielder Dilly Duka in the 15th minute.
Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens knocked down the 22-yard blast, one of just two saves he was forced to make in the opening 45 minutes.
Colorado responded with a few chances, as Jamie Smith was denied at the right post in the 21st by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, who had a save on the left post in the 22nd on Sanna Nyassi.
Nyassi followed with the best scoring chance of the first half-hour as he made a run down the right, cut across the top of the 18 and drove a 20-yard rocket that Hesmer deflected away in the 24th.
The next 15 minutes were spent in midfield before a 30-yard shot from Cummings ended the lull. Crew defender Chad Marshall nearly drove the ball into his own net on a poor clearance seconds later, but the match remained scoreless.
With just seconds remaining in the opening half, Brian Mullan, Kosuke Kimura, and Cummings combined on a quick passing sequence to set up the first goal.
Mullan led a streaking Kimura into the right side of the box, and the defender cut a cross back into the middle of the box for Cummings, who shot to the near post to beat a helpless Hesmer for his first-ever playoff goal.
After a quiet opening half, Columbus forward Andres Mendoza - who had 13 goals in the regular season - came within inches of tying the match when he launched a 22-yard shot off the face of the crossbar in the 54th.
Colorado wasted a chance to double its lead in the 65th when Nyassi broke down the left wing and squared a pass to Mullan, who lifted an open shot from just 12 yards well over the bar.
Unable to create anything offensively, Columbus brought on Emilio Renteria and Jeff Cunningham in the 65th and 70th, respectively, and Colorado was forced to make a change in midfield when Smith went down with an apparent knee injury.
Columbus then lost Cunningham, the all-time leading scorer in MLS history, due to an injury in the 85th, and was forced to use its last sub to bring on Tommy Heinemann.
The Crew finally poured the pressure on in the last minutes of normal time and early in stoppage time, before a Rapids counter ended with a Macoumba Kandji shot off the left post in the 91st.
Columbus struggled to create such a chance, as its season ended for the second successive season against Colorado. Just like last season, the Rapids will go through East to reach the MLS Cup, avoiding the MLS's top teams in the West.
- COLUMBUS: 0
Oct 28 12:00 AM
- COLUMBUS: 0
Oct 27 10:55 PM
- Colorado Goal - Cummings (1) 45th minute
Crew SC 0, Rapids 1 1st - 0'Oct 27 10:55 PM
- COLUMBUS: 0
1st Half - 44'
Oct 27 10:08 PM
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