Colorado head into the second leg of their playoff encounter with Los Angeles buoyed by their solid opening win against the Galaxy at the weekend.
A 30th minute goal from Haitian striker Jean Philippe Peguero saw off Los Angeles in the 1-0 win, with the clean sheet by star keeper Joe Cannon – the Rapids 11th of the season – helping the Denver club head to California with the advantage.
Peguero’s eighth goal came at the perfect time as the Galaxy was putting constant pressure on the Rapids’ defensive third. “I think that if you look at our team this year, any time that you get a goal is a great moment. But specifically getting the first goal at a time of the game where we weren’t playing particularly well was rewarding,” said Rapids’ coach Tim Hankinson.
“We won on corner kicks and we have some tall boys, and Pedro (Peguero) seized the opportunity, and that’s what restarts are all about. But the first goal is very important because it puts more pressure on them, and thus they take more risks, and when they take more risks then the doors open up.”
Cannon’s heroics in goal should leave no doubt in the mind’s of MLS fans that he is the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Cannon deflected two strong headers from 10 yards, one from Danny Califf in the first half the other a diving header from Jovan Kirovski in the second, two keep the clean sheet intact.
The Rapids lack of scoring seems to be following over into the playoffs, but shot-stopper Cannon is confident going into the second leg.
“It helps a lot, but not as much as a two-goal lead but better than no lead. I think it helps for the team mentally too, you beat someone and with the whole mental part of getting a win is important. That’s (L.A.) the only team in the league we haven’t beat this year, so that is huge for us,” stated Cannon.
“We now have beaten every team in the league this year, so it’s good for us going to their place so we don’t have to worry about making a mistake, because we have the lead.”
If not for Cannon’s heroics Pablo Mastroeni easily would have been man of the match. Mastroeni, serving as captain, controlled the Rapids’ midfield and dropped back into defense often man marking the Galaxy’s lethal striker Carlos Ruiz. Mastroeni controlled the Rapids’ pace in attack often playing the center of midfield distributing the ball superbly through the midfield to the offensive third.
“In the playoffs the anxiety builds up in the locker room prior to the game, and everything that goes along with being in the playoffs is huge. Because we have had an up a down year, I think it was crucial at home, especially to get the first goal,” said Mastroeni. “We have a lot of guys going into their first playoffs, it was crucial for us to score and settle the game down a bit. So overall I thought that the effort all night was tremendous and we now just have to carry this over into the next game.”
Going into L.A. next weekend with only one goal will be a very slim advantage. The Galaxy are 8-5-2 at the Home Depot center scoring 25 and conceding only 16. The Rapids have had problems scoring at both home and on the road, but the one goal lead will serve as a momentum boost to try and reach the Western Conference final.
“It’s a bit unsettling. I think the first game is like the first half, it would be premature for us to think there is a sense of comfort being up 1-0,” added Mastroeni. “We need to go in there thinking we are down 1-0, with that type of mentality and go in and close the deal. It isn’t going to be easy but with a little effort and a little luck I think we can get the job done.”
Original Article written by Tom Buck