COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- Pablo Mastroeni’s return to Colorado didn’t exactly go the way he was hoping.
In Mastroeni’s first game back in Colorado since his June trade to the LA Galaxy, two goals before and after the halftime break led the Rapids to a 2-0 win over the Galaxy at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday evening, extending Colorado’s unbeaten run to six games.
Rookie of the Year candidate Dillon Powers delivered the corner kick on Hendry Thomas’ 41st minute header that opened the scoring, and then Powers himself scored less than two minutes after the break after a sharp feed from Edson Buddle.
Standings-wise, the game gave the Rapids a major boost in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture, moving Colorado from sixth into a momentary tie for second, while the Galaxy stayed in the West’s fourth spot.
After a dry opening 20 minutes, Juninho’s 22nd minute shot was the first real opportunity for either side, with the Brazilian’s low, dipping drive just going wide of Clint Irwin’s goal.
In the 33rd, the Rapids managed their first significant chance of the match through Buddle’s volley, which narrowly missed the post. Two minutes later, and Nick LaBrocca’s blast from the outside went off the crossbar, but the Rapids would finally strike a few minutes later.
Off Powers’ corner kick in the 41st minute, an unmarked Thomas blasted a header home from the center of the penalty box for his second goal of the season and a 1-0 Colorado lead into the half.
Only 76 seconds into the second half, the Rapids quickly doubled their lead thanks to a brilliant pass from the veteran Buddle. Holding off L.A.’s A.J. DeLaGarza, Buddle flicked a perfect through ball in between Galaxy defenders Sean Franklin and Tommy Meyer and right onto the feet of Powers, who coolly slotted past oncoming goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini for his fourth goal of the season.
The visiting Galaxy controlled possession for the majority of the final 45 minutes, but it was the Rapids who had the majority of the chances in the second half. Thomas nearly scored a second with a low drive in the 66th minute, Buddle had a 70th minute volley that bounced just over the crossbar, and Buddle again fired into the side netting in the 86th minute.
It was smooth sailing for the streaking Rapids on Saturday night, who successfully spoiled Mastroeni’s anticipated return. The former Rapids captain, who was traded in June after spending over a decade in Colorado, received a warm round of applause from the home crowd when he was substituted off in the 77th minute.
The Galaxy will start play in the International Cup of Champions on Thursday, facing Real Madrid at University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona, but L.A. won’t return to MLS action until August 11, when they travel to Texas to face FC Dallas (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The Rapids, meanwhile, will seek the Rocky Mountain Cup title for the first time since 2006 when they host Real Salt Lake on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live).