PHOENIX — Newcomers Sanna Nyassi and Steven Emory both scored as the Colorado Rapids broke their preseason goal drought in a 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew on Monday afternoon here at the Reach 11 Sports Complex.
Nyassi, who was with Seattle last season, cut into the middle from the right in the 66th minute and lashed a shot off the inside of the near post.
Trialist Emory added a second in the 77th minute, nodding home a cross from the left by Omar Cummings.
The result was a heartening one for the defending champs, who are looking to add depth and additional scoring threats as they get set to defend their MLS Cup title. Colorado coach Gary Smith went with a close-to-first-team starting lineup, but gave backup 'keeper Ian Joyce the nod in place of Matt Pickens as well as Ross LaBauex, Tyrone Marshall and trialist Caleb Folan in for regulars Pablo Mastroeni, Marvell Wynne and Cummings, respectively.
Folan in particular stood out in the first half as he and Conor Casey gave the Rapids two big forwards in the 6-foot-2 range. The twin target men actually showed some nice interplay in the early going and gave Smith a front line with a bit more bite.
However, Columbus were the ones providing the early pressure in the first half. Robbie Rogers looked lively and willing to mix it up in the middle. Emmanuel Ekpo also looked strong slotted in behind strikers Jeff Cunningham and Andres Mendoza.
Perhaps most encouraging for Columbus was that goalkeeper William Hesmer went the full 90 for the first time since injuring his shoulder in the Crew's 2010 season finale against Philadelphia last October. He went 30 minutes last week against Seattle.
Conversely, Joyce looked a little shaky for the Rapids filling in for Pickens. He was caught out of position on a couple of occasions and lost an easy save off his chest in the first half, which he was able to cover.
But Colorado found some new optimism in the second half thanks to the new faces. Nyassi provided speed to match Cummings, who came in for Casey at the restrart and was dangerous often. Emory, who is in Colorado camp through an open tryout, provided some excitement from his spot in the midfield, as did trialist Michael Holody, who added some nice size and speed with his overlapping runs down the right flank.
Columbus kept most of their starting lineup intact for the second half as they look to solidify their chemistry before resuming CONCACAF Champions League play against Real Salt Lake as the quarterfinals kick off on Feb. 22, barely more than a week away. Monday's game was actually played with an official CCL ball instead of the regular Adidas MLS ball to help the Crew prepare for that match.
The Crew next play Houston here on Thursday while the Rapids reserves take on the US Under-18 team on Tuesday; the full team next takes on the LA Galaxy at Arizona State University in Tempe on Wednesday.
COL – Sanna Nyassi (66’)
COL – Steven Emory (77’, Cummings)
William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Rich Balchan (Andy Iro, 46’), Shaun Francis (Josh Gardner, 86’), Robbie Rogers, Kevin Burns (Dejan Rusmir, 72’), Emmanuel Ekpo (Cole Grossman, 72’), Dilly Duka, Jeff Cunningham (Justin Meram, 70’), Andres Mendoza
First Half: Ian Joyce, Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace, Brian Mullan, Jeff Larentowicz, Ross LaBauex, Wells Thompson, Caleb Folan, Conor Casey
Second Half: Steward Ceus, Drew Moor (Mike Holody, 61’), Marvell Wynne, Scott Palguta, Logan Emory, Sanna Nyassi, Joseph Nane, Wells Thompson (Steven Emory, 61’), Jamie Smith, Omar Cummings, Andre Akpan