COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) – A defensive approach is beginning to pay dividends for the Colorado Rapids.
“We always knew that we had to be a good defense,” coach Oscar Pareja said. “We knew that if we played good defense, we would find ways to score goals.”
The blueprint was in play in a 2-0 win over Chivas USA on Saturday night.
“Our defense was one of our weaknesses we had last year,” Pareja said. “What we put in our players’ minds was that we needed to defend better, be solid defensively and the goals would come.”
Atiba Harris scored in the 11th minute and Nathan Sturgis added a late goal for Colorado (5-4-4), which extended its unbeaten streak to five matches (3-0-2).
“Defense is what you build your team off of,” Sturgis said. “You try to finish (your scoring chances) and the last couple of games we have put teams away.”
The Rapids are unbeaten in six home games against Chivas USA, and have eight wins and two ties in their last 10 against the Los Angeles club overall since losing on March 21, 2009.
Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin is 5-2-4 with five shutouts since taking over for injured Matt Pickens, who is out several months because of a broken right forearm.
Chivas USA (3-6-2) has been outscored 13-1 in four straight losses.
“We’ve had a lot of roster moves to make and these aren’t my players,” said Chivas coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola. “One player plays a 4-4-2 and another plays a different system and it will take time.”
Neither team had a shot on goal until Christopher Klute found Harris behind the defense in the 11th minute.
The defenses dominated play for most of opening half.
Chivas USA’s offense came alive over a seven-minute stretch, getting free for several shots. Gabriel Farfan broke free from just outside the penalty box, but had his shot sail into the stands in the 22nd minute.
Bobby Burling’s shot went off the side of the goal and Farfan had a shot easily handled by Irwin, who made only one save in the half.
Colorado was aggressive enough to draw fouls and two yellow cards in the waning moments of the half.
Scoring chances remained at a premium in the second half. Deshorn Brown broke free for a shot that was deflected wide of the right post in the 56th minute
Irwin made an easy save on a shot by Eric Avila in the 69th.
Brown set up Sturgis’ goal in the 78th minute.
The win completed a season series sweep by the Rapids, who also won the April 13th meeting 1-0.
“We have given up too many goals in as many weeks and it hasn’t been good for us,” Burling said. “It is a tough stretch and only the people in the locker room can change it.”
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