The Colorado Rapids went to RFK Stadium on Saturday night and edged D.C. United, 1-0, erasing an 11-year winless streak in the Nation's Capital.
The difference this year is that there was a certain amount of expectation they would do just that—and not because D.C. is hardly at the top of their game.
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The difference this year is that the Rapids are now expected to perform well away from home because of the confident nature in which they are playing their brand of soccer. Last year, the team won only two games on the road. This season, they have already won three away games.
“The last two or three weeks, the team has shown a lot of character,” head coach Gary Smith told mlssoccer after the game. “Tonight, the players showed a real desire to get something out of it.”
And tonight’s victory was even more valuable, given that the Rapids had lost two on the trot and were very anxious to arrest that slide given they don’t play in the league again until May 29.
Mehdi Ballouchy scored his second goal of the season to win the game for the Rapids in the 67th minute. Great work from Wells Thompson helped eventually release the ball to Ballouchy from a Conor Casey pass. The Moroccan cut inside and stroked the ball past a flat-footed Bill Hamid in the D.C. goal.
The Rapids didn’t sit back and pressed to make the game safe, which was another aspect that differs from their play of recent seasons.
Colin Clark, who came on for Thompson right after the goal, rattled the post in the 70th minute from a distance. Ballouchy almost added a second from a free kick in the 75th minute when he stroked one against the bar. The Rapids also had an excellent move in the 82nd minute when Casey won a difficult header and released Ballouchy who crossed to Clark. Unfortunately, Clark wasn’t able to put a strong shot on the DC keeper.
But the point is that the Rapids didn’t sit back on their lead. They continued to press forward to try and make the game safe rather than soak up inevitable pressure and maybe give up an equalizer.
Granted, D.C. are not a strong team right now, but Colorado had the right mentality to exploit that and press forward to secure the win. That alone is a far cry from Rapids teams of recent years.
The fact that the Rapids now have three road victories this season, and that they're winning games unexpectedly though players such as Ballouchy, proves that there is new mentality within the group, Smith added.
The Rapids next play in the league at home to Seattle May 29.