Daniel Brenner, Special to the Denver Post
COMMERCE CITY — Rookie center back Kortne Ford scored the first goal of his MLS career and made some big plays defending in the penalty area Saturday night as the Rapids won the first of four consecutive home games, halting a two-game losing streak 1-0 over Sporting Kansas City.
In a matchup of teams at polar ends of the Western Conference standings — SKC in first place, Colorado in last — Ford tallied in the 12th minute with a header off a beautifully taken free kick by Shkelzen Gashi, the earliest goal of the season for the Rapids. Ford, a former University of Denver star starting in place of Jared Watts (calf), nearly scored again late in the first half with another header off a corner kick but this time SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia made a diving save.
Rapids striker Kevin Doyle also forced Melia to make a diving safe of a shot off a free kick in the 34th minute, but for much of the game the visitors dominated possession, creating some dangerous chances. Graham Zusi, a member of the U.S. men’s national team known for dangerous attacks from his position at right back, got free in the penalty area in the 28th minute and fired a shot saved by center back Bobby Burling. Ten minutes later, midfielder Gerso Fernandes slipped into the penalty area unmarked but was high with a shot over an open goal.
There was a good amount of chippy play, indicative of the rivalry between two teams with roots going back to the inaugural season of MLS in 1996, and the visitors went through an impressive repertoire of flopping, diving and, when their ploys went unrewarded, arm-waving.
The home crowd had reason to be nervous late in the game with the Rapids sitting on the 1-0 lead, because their team has given up five goals in the final 15 minutes of games this season. But this time Colorado was able to close out the game for a much-needed lift.