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Conor Casey righting the ship: Takeaways from the Rapids’ 3-2 win over Columbus

Seeking their first home win of 2019, the Colorado Rapids hosted the Columbus Crew on Saturday night. Colorado opened the scoring with a headed goal from Tommy Smith (23’) before Pedro Santos leveled the match at 1-1 five minutes later for Columbus. But Colorado retook the lead seven minutes into first half stoppage time to enter halftime with the score at 2-1. Gyasi Zardes helped the visitors level again in the 54th minute to even the score at 2-2 before substitute Nicolas Mezquida found the game winner in the 89th minute, earning the 3-2 victory for the Rapids.

Here are three takeaways from Colorado’s 3-2 win over Columbus:

Conor Casey era continues with results

In his first head coaching gig, Rapids interim head coach is accomplishing the task he was assigned to do: right the ship.

Colorado is now 2-2-0 in matches under Casey with back-to-back wins for the first time this season having earned their first win of 2019 last week at LA and their first win in front of home fans this weekend. The six points earned in those matches is three times the amount of points secured than the two points the Rapids amassed in nine games under former head coach Anthony Hudson to start the season.

Perhaps most important has been the change in mentality under the former Rapids’ striker.

“I think you see a lot of belief in each other,” Casey said of the Rapids’ mentality. “They’ve been through a lot this year so far and now it’s starting to turn and you can tell that they have really bonded together and they really believe in each other.”

Tommy Smith rebounds

Maligned for his poor defensive performances throughout his Rapids career, Rapids centerback Tommy Smith has experienced a resurgence in the Rapids’ past two wins.

At LA, the 29-year-old New Zealand international helped keep things tidy in the back and, with a little help from Tim Howard, the Rapids earned their first win and shutout of the season.

Against Columbus, Smith showed his value on the other end of the pitch, scoring a header on a corner for the match’s opening goal. It showed flashes of the player who led the team in scoring last season and was a result of extra work on the training pitch during the week.

“Every time a corner comes in I try to get my head on it,” Smith said of his goal. “Actually, me and [Jack Price] stayed behind after training yesterday and practiced a few. It was nice to see one come off and it’s always nice to see one going in the back of the net.”

Super sub Mezquida

As stated above, Conor Casey has been a big part of why Colorado has begun to turn results in their favor. Casey deserves even more praise for choosing the right substitutes at the right time. In back-to-back weeks, it’s been a substitute who’s scored the winning goal as the Rapids continue to look to press offensively late in games.

This week, it was Uruguayan Nicolas Mezquida who became the hero with his 89th minute game winner.

“I am happy because it is a win, it is important to be winning, we have to be thinking about the team,” Mezquida said when asked about coming off the bench. “It is true, I kind of liked making the winning goal, but I want to say thanks to my team for being a big force tonight and in the last game too.”

Dating back to the start of the 2017 season, Mezquida has four goals and two assists when coming on as a substitute.

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