In the third minute the Rapids withstood a flurry of activity in front of their own net as Chicago had the first corner kick of the match and converted it into a couple of chances that were blocked by Rapids defenders. The Fire drew first blood in the 16th minute when Will Johnson took a pass from Chris Rolfe and dribbled across the top of the box before he unleashed a rocket that went into the far upper corner of Joe Cannon’s goal.
The Rapids equalized in the 23rd minute when Kyle Beckerman passed the ball forward to Jeff Cunningham, who played the ball to a streaking Alain Nkong. The Cameroonian took a couple of touches to get himself into the penalty area, where he curled his shot around Zach Thornton for his second goal of the year against the Fire.
The Rapids took the lead just three minutes later when Ritchie Kotchau took a pass from Guy Melamed and dribbled 30 yards to reach Chicago’s penalty area. Once inside the 18 he slipped a fantastic through pass to Eric Denton, who took the ball down to the end line. Chicago ‘keeper Zach Thornton cheated to the far post, anticipating a cross, but Denton outsmarted the big goalie and blasted the ball into the net past Thornton’s near post for his first career MLS goal.
On the half-hour mark a Chicago free kick taken by Justin Mapp curled around the Rapids wall but Cannon leaned to his left and punched the ball clear of danger.
In a special halftime ceremony, longtime Rapids defender Marcelo Balboa was the center of attention as the team honored him for his induction into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame. Balboa was given a framed jersey, a package from Adidas, golf clubs, a watch and more in the ceremony. Rapids Head Coach Fernando Clavijo had gotten the same treatment in a pre-game ceremony honoring his 2005 induction as well.
The second half picked up right where the first left off with the Rapids carrying the majority of the play and bearing down on Thornton’s net.
Jeff Cunningham retook the MLS lead in goals in the 76th minute as he latched onto a ball just outside of Chicago’s goal box and slipped the ball past an onrushing Thornton. Nkong had the assist, paying back the favor from his first goal of the evening.
Cunningham then ran over to the fans gathered in Section 127 to pose in front of thier banner which read: « What Do You Have To Do To Be Named an MLS All-Star? Lead the League in Goals – Jeff Cunningham Earned It And Deserves to Be There. » Cunningham was snubbed for the 2005 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star game this season, despite having tallied more goals in MLS than any other player.
Nkong completed his brace in the 84th minute as he beat Thornton once again, to send the home crowd into hysterics. After the finish Nkong took off his right cleat and held it up to his ear as part of a goal celebration, mimicing a phone call back to Cameroon on it.
The Rapids have a bye in MLS play this coming weekend for the All-Star game, but will next play again on Saturday, August 6 when they host the Los Angeles Galaxy at INVESCO Field at Mile High at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on Altitude Sports and Entertainment.
Colorado Rapids Man of the Match: Alain Nkong