COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It was déjà vu at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for Columbus Saturday afternoon as the Crew began their 2012 season the way 2011 ended – with a road loss to a superior Colorado Rapids side. Colorado collected all three points with a 2-0 victory in both sides’ First Kick match, with Drew Moor and Quincy Amarikwa providing the goals.
Moor’s header in the 44th minute opened the scoring for an inspired Rapids side playing their first match under new head coach Oscar Pareja, and Amarikwa’s highlight-reel strike in the 89th minute capped an impressive opening match for Colorado, which needed two sensational stops by goalkeeper Matt Pickens to keep a mostly listless Columbus side at bay.
The Crew survived an early onslaught from the upstart home team, who dominated possession and generated all the early chances. Omar Cummings narrowly missed high on Brian Mullan’s feed in the 17th minute, and three minutes later, Cummings found himself alone with Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, only for the Jamaican international to fire straight into the Crew 'keeper's sprawling legs.
However, Columbus slowly started to work themselves back into the contest, and perhaps the best Crew opportunity of the first half came in the 30th minute from Chilean international and MLS debutant Milovan Mirosevic, who fired a low strike headed for the corner of the goal and was denied only by the fingertips of Pickens.
But just as Columbus appeared to have regained momentum, a key error by Gruenebaum gifted the Rapids their opener.
On a harmless cross seemingly headed straight into Gruenebaum’s hands, the Crew netminder – blinded by the sun – let the ball slip through his mitts and out for a corner kick. On the ensuing corner, the Rapids took advantage of the crucial blunder. The corner was initially cleared by the Crew defense, but Rapids right back Kosuke Kimura gathered the ball and whipped in a spot-on cross, which was met by the charging Moor, who delivered the deserved opening goal in the 44th minute via an unstoppable close-range header.
Early in the second half, the Rapids continued to push forward and nearly doubled their lead, but a diving Danny O’Rourke prevented Brian Mullan and Cummings from completing a give-and-go that likely would have resulted in the second goal of the contest.
However, Pickens had to be at his best to make a brilliant reflex save in the 79th minute on a cross that caromed off three different players before Chad Marshall directed a header on frame. The veteran goalkeeper was just able to push the ball over the crossbar while diving to his right.
But Colorado didn’t have to worry for the final few minutes after Amarikwa’s shot into the top left corner from just outside the 18-yard box left Gruenebaum helpless, allowing the Rapids to cruise the rest of the way and collect their first three points under Pareja.
The Rapids next travel to Philadelphia to take on the Union on March 18, while the Crew will have a week off before playing their home opener on the afternoon of March 24 against Montreal.