Marlon Hairston scores twice, Rapids escape last place with easy win over Houston

COMMERCE CITY — The Rapids finished second in the Western Conference last season and began Saturday’s game in last place, where they have spent most of this season. The Houston Dynamo has done the reverse, finishing last in 2016 and entering Saturday’s contest tied for second.

But the Rapids got out of the conference cellar with an easy and entertaining 3-1 win over the Dynamo with Marlon Hairston scoring twice, giving them some momentum going into Tuesday’s annual Fourth of July celebration against Seattle, the reigning MLS Cup champions. It was Colorado’s fifth win in the last six home games.

Hairston’s best position is in midfield, but coach Pablo Mastroeni moved him to right back for much of the season to shore up a shaky back line. Mastroeni put him back in midfield Saturday and it paid big dividends, aided by the play of striker Dominique Badji, who attracted defenders with his speed and created space for others.

“I just tried to stretch the back line as much as I could and try to run in behind,” Hairston said. “Credit to Badji, his hold up play was great tonight. Every game we play, we know his pace is going to be a threat to opposing defenses. Lately I’ve been playing full back, trying to help this team get some results, but it’s good to be back playing higher up the field.”

Mastroeni unveiled an intriguing new midfield configuration, deploying Hairston and Dillon Serna as wingers with Nana Boateng attacking from the middle and Mohammed Saeid covering behind. Many Rapids watchers have been eager to see Boateng and Saeid on the field together because their physical qualities and vision would seem to complement each other, but they had not played with each other before. In fact, after coming to the Rapids in a trade, Saeid made his Rapids debut substituting for Boateng when Boateng was injured against Real Salt Lake in April, breaking three lumbar vertebrae. Boateng subsequently missed 10 games.

On Colorado’s first goal, Saeid found Badji, who passed off to Serna attacking the left wing. Serna made a perfect cross to Kevin Doyle, who scored his fourth goal of the season in the 21st minute.

After Houston equalized in first-half stoppage time on a goal by Erick Torres, Mastroeni wanted his team to come out “bright” in the second half to put pressure on Houston with the ball and, when Houston had possession, win the ball higher up the field because passivity without the ball late in the first half gave Houston scoring chances.

The Rapids quickly got the goal they needed to take command, Badji getting free on a counterattack with Houston pressing forward, pulling goalkeeper Joe Willis out of his goal and crossing a ball which Hairston put away at the goal line in the 49th minute. Hairston tallied again on another counterattack in the 70th minute, the Rapids taking only 14 seconds to move the ball from goalkeeper Tim Howard to Doyle, then Badji and back to Doyle, who set up Hairston for a looping shot over Willis.

The first half of the season has been a disappointment for Rapids fans, but now the team seems to be playing with some confidence.

“We’re a team you don’t want to mess with right now,” Badji said. “We’re definitely picking up some steam, we’re a team that’s going to be scoring goals, that’s going to be a threat and not conceding a lot of goals. We’re definitely a team nobody wants to match up against.”

Source : http://www.denverpost.com/2017/07/01/rapids-easy-win-over-houston/

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