Colorado Defeats Columbus on Penalties

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 28: Brian Mullan  of the Colorado Rapids falls on Eddie Gaven  of the Columbus Crew during the second half at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the first leg of MLS playoffs on October 28, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Colorado Rapids defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0. (Photo by Nathan W. Armes/Getty Images)

It took four halves, two extra time periods, and ten penalties, but Colorado finally managed to eliminate Columbus. After regulation and extra time, the first nine penalty takers hit the net with little problem. But Columbus’ Brian Carroll smashed over the bar to send Colorado to the next round.

1st Half

Both managers made at least one change following the first leg:


  • Eddie Gaven made a permanent switch to right midfield and Emmanuel Ekpo stepped in at center mid.
  • Andres Mendoza was Guillermo Schelotto’s partner instead of Steven Lenhart.
  • Eric Brunner replaced Andy Iro at center back.


  • Jamie Smith came on for Wells Thompson at left midfield.

The Gaven/Ekpo switch and the presence of Mendoza had the biggest impact on the first forty-five minutes. Ekpo, who had also played CM in the second half of the first leg, was more composed than Gaven had been, and Gaven revitalized the Columbus attack. His goal (21) came off a corner but he rampaged up and down the right side throughout the early going. Mendoza’s pace helped Gaven’s cause, as the Colorado center backs seemed to fear his speed more than they’d feared Lenhart’s power.

Columbus couldn't cope with Colorado's 2nd half 3-5-2.

2nd Half

As with the first encounter, little changed at the start of the half. However, Robbie Rogers’ 69th minute goal (the excellent Ekpo assisted) forced Colorado to shake things up. The Rapids, after using all of their substitutes, ended up with a 3-5-2. Macoumba Kandji, who was much improved from the first leg, and Claudio Lopez were the key men. Their roaming sometimes turned the formation into a 3-4-1-2 or a 3-4-3, a fluidity that Columbus’ defense couldn’t match.

Oh, and Colorado also remembered to use Omar Cummings on Columbus’ left flank. During the first leg he turned that side of the field into his own playground, but today he didn’t spend much time there until the second half. Operating on that flank, he drew a free kick, earned a corner, and sent in a cross that should have been converted into a goal. All three events occurred in the first seven minutes of the half. Naturally, a similar sequence ended with Conor Casey notching the aggregate equalizer (83).

Extra Time

After regulation, Colorado continued to use their 3-5-2 and controlled the extra periods. Schelotto, meandering more than usual, did engineer a few half chances for Columbus, but he spent a decent portion of the second period sitting on the ground, clearly exhausted. Everyone else seemed relatively content to let the match go to penalties.

Carroll’s subsequent miss means the Eastern Conference won’t have a representative in the final for the second straight year. FFG doesn’t think the conference system means anything (teams play home and away series during the regular season regardless of conference), but hopefully this anomaly will force Don Garber to tweak his system.

3 Comments Post a Comment
  1. bensten says:

    Two teams have now fallen in front of home crowds. Is the home field advantage not a huge factor in MLS?

    Nice point about the conferences being a vague construct. The buzz seems to be that the big wigs are open to evolving, though.

  2. AG says:

    As I look at homefield advantage in sports, I always think about the energy level/motivation increase that comes with your home field’s electric atmosphere. but the problem in the MLS is that few places have an electric atmosphere.

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