COLUMBUS, Ohio — They're not fancy, and they're certainly not often in the media spotlight. But the Colorado Rapids are now one game from the MLS Cup final.
Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz says the Rapids' "us against the world" mentality helped them bond into a tight unit and is a key factor in the team's surprise run to the Eastern Conference Championship.
“We said before the game we are not so sure that many people care about us, but we care about each other,” Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com after this past weekend's thrilling penalty-kick victory over the Columbus Crew. “We definitely fight for each other. At this point, we have come together and there is real cohesion.”
The Rapids know they owe a debt of gratitude to Colorado fans, some of whom made the trip to Columbus on a near-freezing Saturday afternoon to cheer on their boys to victory. Indeed, Larentowicz and his teammates, flush with the win, made sure to run over to a group of supporters in the south end of Crew Stadium to thank them for braving the harsh weather and making the trip.
Rapids fans at the game included a small delegation from the British Bulldog Supporters’ Group. Richard Bamber, the group's secretary, said he and his fellow fans had a perfect view of Brian Carroll’s missed penalty which took the Rapids past the Crew.
[inline_node:322866]“You could see as soon as he hit it that it was a duff penalty and on its way to Cleveland,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “We jumped up and down in our section, did our thing and almost forgot we were in a stadium 1,000 miles from Denver. It was absolutely fantastic.”
Bamber revealed that he and his fellow Bulldog fans shook the hands of some of the Columbus fans before the penalty shootout to commiserate with each other how awful such an ending was to a highly competitive game and series. He also praised some of the Crew fan groups for helping them with their arrangements while in Ohio.
Unfortunately for Rapids season-ticket holder Barbara Buswell, the Columbus experience wasn’t quite as positive. Buswell was on her way out of Crew Stadium at the end of the game when a Crew fan made off with her Burgundy scarf.
The silver lining? She bumped into Rapids managing director Jeff Plush at Columbus Airport Sunday morning and he promised to fix her up with a new one.
Bamber, Buswell and several thousand other fans will be out in force this weekend for the Eastern Conference Championship against San Jose at home at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (9:30 p.m. ET, FSC). The Bulldog Supporters Group said they will be roasting a pig at the pregame tailgate.