COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) – Omar Cummings scored in the 45th minute and the Colorado Rapids began defense of their MLS title with a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew in the wild card match on Thursday night.
Cummings had scored only three goals in the regular season. Injuries had limited him to 26 games this season.
“It has been a difficult season for me,” Cummings said. “Tonight made it a lot better.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Rapids 1, Columbus 0
Colorado will face Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens made three saves in posting his fifth career playoff shutout. Three of the shutouts have come for the Rapids.
The Rapids ousted Columbus a year ago in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Kosuke Kimura ran down the ball in the right corner and broke free along the end line. Kimura slid a pass to an unguarded Cummings just inside the scoring box.
Cummings didn’t waste any time and kicked a waist-high shot past the diving goalkeeper William Hesmer.
“Columbus had played well and had suffocated us on defense before they had a breakdown at the end of the first half,” Colorado coach Gary Smith said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time and it obviously changed their mindset.”
“I had a good pass from Kosuke,” Cummings said. “And a good look and shot.”
Colorado dominated play, outshooting the Crew 6-2 in the first half. Hesmer had to come up with five saves compared to two by Pickens.
Cummings had two quality attempts, the first in the eighth minute from 20 yards that Hesmer caught above his shoulders. He was wide of the net in the 10th minute.
Dilly Duka had the best chance for Columbus. He broke free to get off a shot that Pickens batted away.
The Rapids put a three-shot flurry together in the 21st minute. Hesmer denied Caleb Folan’s shot from the slot, the only shot that got through to Hesmer in the sequence.
Yet, the Crew remained in the game. A breakdown in the Crew’s defense, left Cummings without a defender in 10 yards.
“It was a mess out there on the goal,” Hesmer said. “I thought there was confusion on who was going to go wide with Kimura and when we went out to block the cross, Cummings was left sitting in the hole.”
Columbus coach Robert Warzycha could only shake his head at the turn of events.
“It is unfortunate because of the timing of the goal doesn’t give you a chance to respond,” Warzycha said. “Then, we begin the second half with a shot off the crossbar.”
Andres Mendoza hit the crossbar with a shot from the slot in the 55th minute. A cross from Duka that managed to get through to Pickens was the only other time Columbus threatened in the second half.
The Rapids failed to extend their lead in the 66th minute. Sanna Nyassi set up for a wide open look, but Brian Mullan sailed a left-footed kick well over the crossbar.
Cummings received a standing ovation when he came out of the game in the 68th minute. He was replaced by Wells Thompson.
LINK: Game Stats
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)