López putting team before minutes in playoff run
Claudio Lopez has been to the World
Cup with Argentina and played for some of the most renowned clubs in the world
in Valencia, Lazio and Club América.
With his lack of minutes for the Colorado Rapids this
season, players of his stature could easily become an unpleasant locker-room
presence. But nobody with the Rapids would say that about the 36-year-old
So when López was given an opportunity to contribute to
Colorado’s Eastern Conference semifinal victory against the Columbus Crew, the
moment was all the sweeter. He came on for defender Kosuke Kimura in the 82nd
minute, allowing him to be on the field when Conor Casey leveled the series at
two goals apiece with just six minutes remaining in the match. The Argentine
played all 30 minutes of extra time, and then finished off his performance with
a left-footed penalty shootout blast past Crew ‘keeper Andy Gruenebaum.
And even though López has seen it all as a professional, his
excitement at Casey’s goal and converting the penalty was plain for all to see.
Everybody involved with the Rapids’ organization will tell
you how the striker is all about the team, despite his lack of minutes.
Saturday’s vital playoff game was the most action the midfielder has seen since
joining the Rapids from the Kansas City Wizards this year.
“It’s exciting to be in this position,” he told
MLSsoccer.com. “It’s good to see the coach trust me to go in at that time of
Removing Kimura put the Rapids in a 3-5-2 formation for the
first time this season. It was a desperate, last-ditch attempt to get bodies
forward, but it worked as the Rapids advance to the Eastern Conference
Championship against the San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 9:30 pm ET, FSC).
“Every week, we work in training for playing at the
weekend,” López said. “I think everyone is important in this team. Everyone’s
working for the team.”
And what if he comes on this weekend and notches the winning
goal to send the Rapids to MLS Cup? After working so hard this season, the
celebrations would be quite something.