COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Everyone all week had been talking about the Colorado Rapids' Conor Casey and Omar Cummings combination, but tonight’s Eastern Conference Championship was decided by a Rapids defender with a speculative cross.
Kosuke Kimura’s cross in the 42nd minute was the only goal of the game. Some may say it was a lucky goal, but the Japanese player works on delivering dangerous balls into dangerous areas every day at training and all that hard work paid off in Colorado's 1-0 defeat of San Jose.
WATCH: Full match highlights
Unlike previous assists Kimura has had this season, the Rapids right back passed the ball into the San Jose penalty area with his left foot. Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch was put off by an on-rushing Omar Cummings. The ball missed them both and slid into the far corner of the net.
Such a goal was perhaps symptomatic of the night. It wasn’t the best the Rapids have played all season, but it was good enough.
“It’s a cross on frame in a good area and tonight it’s enough to win us our first silverware, to take us to the final next week and for all of us to have a fantastic night,” said Rapids’ head coach Gary Smith. “You can’t ask for much more than that from a cross.”
Kimura said he has been working hard with Smith, and particularly assistant coach Steve Guppy, on delivering crosses that will make the opposition goalkeeper or defenders think. His initial thought was that Cummings had got a touch.
WATCH: Kimura slips the winner past Busch
“I’ve been working with that on my left foot,” Kimura said. “Steve Guppy says ‘Kosuke, just put it in a good area.’ No-one touches it and the ball is just going to go to the goal. I got lucky but, still, you have to put the ball in a good area.”
Kimura was up and down the field all night, defending as much as he was attacking. He paid tribute to the fellow defenders on the backline as well as defensive midfielders Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz. In the back four, Julien Baudet was a late second half substitution for Anthony Wallace with Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne rounding off the back line.
“We can defend any team in this league,” Kimura said. “We did our job. It’s very exciting to have the Eastern championship.”
Cummings had two golden opportunities in the second half to put the game to bed but, equally, San Jose could have equalized on a couple of occasions. The game was never really sure for the Rapids.
[inline_node:323231]Larentowicz, struggling with a slight knock at the end of the game, said the team may have suffered from a lack of experience of such a big game and paid tribute to San Jose’s attacking nature in the second period.
“We didn’t create much in the second half,” he told MLSsoccer.com.”To do enough to get the job done is sometimes what it takes.”
Goalscoring hero Kimura said he was delighted to have the conference championship and is looking forward to watching Sunday nights’ game to determine the Rapids opposition in MLS Cup in Toronto next weekend. The Los Angeles Galaxy face FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/Deportes).
“I don’t really care right now [who we play],” Kimura said. “We have huge confidence right now. The momentum is so hard to stop.”