COMMERCE CITY, Colo. --- The Colorado Rapids scored three goals in the first 30 minutes of their opening game as defending MLS Cup champions on Saturday night, and spoiled the MLS debut of the expansion Portland Timbers with a 3-1 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Jeff Larentowicz, Omar Cummings and Jamie Smith each scored for the Rapids, who controlled much of the tempo of the match before Kenny Cooper scored the Timbers’ first-ever MLS goal on a skipping free kick in the 80th minute.
But Cooper’s historic goal certainly wasn’t enough to seriously threaten the Rapids, who got on the board with a scrappy goal from Larentowicz in the 8th minute.
Cummings set up the goal when he refused to give up on a ball close to the corner flag, brought it in dangerously and crossed the ball hard into the penalty area. The ball landed perfectly for Larentowicz, who capped a difficult week with a sweet close-range strike into an almost open goal.
The midfielder was involved in a midweek car accident that saw him in a neck brace, and was also wearing a cast to protect a fractured thumb sustained in a recent preseason win over Vancouver.
Cummings made the most of another Rapids scoring chance in the 29th minute after forward Conor Casey sent him through with a perfect header. Portland goalkeeper Adin Brown denied Cummings’s first breakaway chance, but the rebound skipped back to the Jamaican international, who neatly finished it into an open net for a 2-0 Colorado lead.
Smith punctuated the surge just one minute later on a gorgeous right-footed rip from 25 yards out.
Cooper and the Timbers rebounded well in the second half, highlighted by a sequence of spectacular saves from Brown and the monumental goal from Cooper, the Timbers’ prized signing of a busy offseason.
Cooper smoked a low shot on a free kick from roughly 35 yards that skipped past the Colorado wall, through the box and to the far post past goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
The goal was the first in MLS for Cooper since June 20, 2009 with FC Dallas.
· Head coach John Spencer faced his former club in his first regular-season match at the helm. The two-time MLS All-Star starred for the Rapids from 2001-04 and is a member of the Rapids Gallery of Honor. Joining Spencer with ties to the Rapids is Brown, who started his professional career with the club in 2000. He was selected by Colorado in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft and played a portion of the 2001 season before being traded.
· Members of the Timbers Army, the Timbers’ supporters group, occupied two sections at Dicks’ Sporting Goods Park.
· The match ball for Saturday’s First Kick was silver. It was as a commemorative ball for the Rapids 2010 MLS Cup championship. The club also unveiled a new 2010 MLS Cup champions banner as part of the pre-game festivities.
Quotes: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids
John Spencer, Timbers head coach
Overall on game…
“It does not matter what sport you play in the top level, this is the top level of this sport in this country, if we make errors we are going to get punished and we did. We were a little surprised going down three nothing. We looked shell-shocked after the second one went in and started playing safe and then gave up a mistake and got punished from thirty yards out for the third goal. Omar Cummings and Conor Casey are two of the best in the league. If you are going to give them chances they are going to kill you.”
Jack Jewsbury, Timbers captain, midfielder
Overall on game…
“Tonight we fell short. We gave up the early goal and had some mental and physical mistakes that can kill you in MLS. When you dig yourself a hole that deep, it is tough to come back from. I think that we played better in the second half, but it has to be a consistent performance for the whole game and not just for short periods of time.”
Moving forward from first game…
“We have to (play) smarter. We have to be better and we have to come out of the gates better than we did tonight. We are disappointed with how the first half went, but the guys could have put their heads down and we could have just given them more. Instead, I think the guys fought back really hard in the second half. We got a goal and gave ourselves a little bit of a chance. That part of the game is good. But we need to come out stronger and not put ourselves in that big of a hole. We play 34 games in the season; this is one game, we obviously want to learn from the mistakes that we made, but at the end of the day we have 33 games left and we will definitely be better.”
Eric Brunner, Timbers defender
Overall on game and moving forward…
“It was definitely disappointing. We worked hard in preseason and that was definitely not the way you want to start the first game of the season. We need to be better, and pick our heads up and play better next game. It is a long season and we have a lot of games. You have to remember it is one game and we have a lot of games left. If we put the work in during the week and improve in areas, we will hopefully get a better result.”
Gary Smith, Rapids head coach
(Overall on the game… ) “Very pleased. I think the group was pleased to get the first game under their belts and get some points on the board. I think we always knew it would be a tough game and one or two of the goals in the first half were a little fortuitous. The ball broke our way but we took nice advantage of it and of course Jamie’s goal was a wonderful strike. Second period was also competitive, to be expected. Portland are a well-organized and well-equipped group, and I think as you see this season unfold you’re going to see a very strong team.”
COL -- Jeff Larentowicz 1 (Omar Cummings 1) 8
COL -- Omar Cummings 1 (unassisted) 29
COL -- Jamie Smith 1 (Conor Casey 1) 30
POR -- Kenny Cooper 1 (unassisted) 80
Portland Timbers -- Adin Brown, Steve Purdy, Eric Brunner, Kevin Goldthwaite (David Horst 46), Rodney Wallace (Kalif Alhassan 66), Ryan Pore, Jack Jewsbury, Peter Lowry (Adam Moffat 46), Jeremy Hall, Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza.
Substitutes Not Used: Mamadou Danso, Brian Umony, Sal Zizzo, Jake Gleeson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 5 (Kenny Cooper 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Kenny Cooper 1); FOULS: 7 (Ryan Pore 2); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Jack Jewsbury 1); SAVES: 5 (Adin Brown 5)
Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace, Brian Mullan(Wells Thompson 89), Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni (Sanna Nyassi 77), Jamie Smith, Conor Casey (Quincy Amarikwa 61), Omar Cummings.
Substitutes Not Used: Mike Holody, Ross LaBauex, Scott Palguta, Steward Ceus.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Omar Cummings 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (3 tied with 2); FOULS: 15 (Brian Mullan 5); OFFSIDES: 1 (Omar Cummings 1); CORNER KICKS: 8 (Jamie Smith 7); SAVES: 0
COL -- Conor Casey (caution; Reckless Foul) 39
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Peter Manikowski
4th Official: Yader Reyes
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-65-degrees