The Colorado Rapids received the devastating news on Tuesday that top striker Conor Casey would miss the rest of the MLS season with a torn Achilles, news that seemed to doom the Rapids' chances of repeating as MLS Cup champions.
Rather than crumble, the Rapids went out on Wednesday night and sent an emphatic message that the champion is not dead yet. Head coach Gary Smith made a subtle move to slide speedy winger Sanna Nyassi to forward and he responded with a hat-trick as Colorado mauled the New York Red Bulls, 4-1 . Wells Thompson also added a goal for the Rapids (7-6-9).
Nyassi partnered with Omar Cummings to run New York's defense ragged, and while the Red Bulls were missing starters Rafa Marquez, Teemu Tainio and Luke Rodgers, there was still too much talent on the field for the Red Bulls to excuse such an embarrassing loss for a team that has been pegged as a title contender.
On Wednesday, the Red Bulls looked more like pretenders, while Colorado looked to have found a new threat at forward. Nyassi's aggressive and speedy runs toasted multiple New York defenders, including U.S. national team centerback Tim Ream.
Nyassi's success at forward bodes well for the Rapids chances of replacing some of Casey's goal-scoring production, but it's safe to say Colorado won't have as easy a time finding the net on most nights as the Rapids did against New York. That being said, if Nyassi can trouble defenses at forward, and if Mac Kandji can return and have an impact, the Rapids should still have enough firepower to threaten once the post-season rolls around.
Things won't be getting any easy for the Red Bulls, who return to New Jersey to take on red-hot FC Dallas on Saturday. New York might have Marquez and Tainio back, which should help bolster the squad, but the Red Bulls are running out of time to sort themselves out as the gap between them and first-place Philadelphia widens atop the Eastern Conference.
Colorado's emphatic victory was one of the big surprises on a busy night in MLS. Here is a look at Wednesday's action around the league
Los Angeles Galaxy 1, Columbus Crew 0
Crew goalkeeper Will Hemer had another strong night, but Sean Franklin scored his first career goal with the help of a deflection to give the LA Galaxy their league-leading 11th victory of the season (tied with FC Dallas).
The Galaxy's struggles with generating goals continued, but so did the team's defensive stinginess, which led to a third shutout in four MLS matches for the first-place squad.
The win pushed Los Angeles four points clear of Seattle atop the Western Conference standings and increased the Galaxy's unbeaten streak to an MLS-best 13 matches (a streak that dates all the way back to a May 1st loss to FC Dallas).
D.C. United 0, New England Revolution 1
D.C. created quality early chances, but some clutch saves by Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis, and a missed Charlie Davies penalty, doomed the home team as rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy's header provided the difference in this Eastern Conference clash.
Playing in sweltering heat that closed in on triple digits, D.C. started strongly, but couldn't find the breakthrough as Reis made a handful of vital saves. D.C. eventually saw that early success fade after Davies blasted a penalty kick over the crossbar just before halftime.
The win was a crucial one for a Revs side coming off a crushing 3-0 home loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, and was a devastating one for a D.C. squad hoping to build off its impressive 1-0 road victory against the Red Bulls.
Toronto FC 0, FC Dallas 1
Trotting out a host of new faces, including newly-acquired Designated Players Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, Toronto FC was hoping for some new results. Unfortunately for the TFC faithful, another loss was the outcome as Brek Shea's long-range blast settled matters at BMO Field.
Frings and Koevermans started brightly as Koevermans earned a free kick that Frings blasted at goal, forcing a Kevin Hartman save, but Dallas defended well on the road and Shea scored his league-leading ninth goal when he collected a ball at midfield, zoomed past Frings and Nathan Sturgis and blasted a long-range shot off the inside of the left post and past Stefan Frei for the eventual game-winning goal.
TFC will look to have better success with its revamped lineup on Saturday at Sporting Kansas City, while FC Dallas travels to New York to take on the struggling Red Bulls.
San Jose Earthquakes 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 2
Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski showed why he is an MLS All-Star and Whitecaps striker Eric Hassli showed why he should be one as both players scored two goals in this Western Conference stalemate.
San Jose continued a recent slide of seven straight matches without a win, and a fifth tie in six matches by blowing leads on two occasions, as Hassli increased his goal total to eight on the year.
The bright spot for the Earthquakes was Wondolowski, who scored his first two goals since returning from U.S. national team duty at the Gold Cup.
The match also marked the MLS debut of new Whitecaps Designated Player Mustapha Jarju, who started and played 57 minutes for Vancouver.