COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) — With Conor Casey nursing an injury and Omar Cummings off serving with the Jamaica national team, the struggling Colorado Rapids needed some offense. Andre Akpan and Tony Cascio, two of their younger players, provided all they needed.
"Conor's knees were bothering him and it was Andre's time," Colorado coach Oscar Pareja said. "We got what we needed from the young guys, Andre and Tony."
Akpan scored in the sixth minute and the Rapids escaped the Western Conference basement with a 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night.
"At this level, all you can ask for is opportunity," said Akpan, who had played only 164 minute before Wednesday. "Tonight I made the most of my opportunity."
Cascio and Jaime Castrillon each added a goal for Colorado (9-17-2), which ended a four-game winless streak. The win leapfrogged Colorado past the Timbers and Chivas USA into seventh place in the West.
Pareja knows too well Colorado's playoff chances are holding on by a thread. They are eight points behind Vancouver for the final spot with six games left.
"We have a lot to do," Pareja said. "But tonight we finally found the net."
Akpan scored his first goal of the season in his second start after Cascio was stripped of the ball in the scoring zone. The ball deflected to Akpan, who fired a shot past Donovan Ricketts.
"The ball found a way to me," Akpan said. "And I reacted."
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens made one save in earning his seventh shutout, adding to his all-time franchise lead in shutouts (29) and wins (41).
The Timbers beat the Rapids 1-0 on Aug. 31.
Portland (7-14-6) had its season-best, two-game winning streak snapped while being shut out for the 11th time. The Timbers have lost all three meetings in Colorado and remain the only team in the league without a road win (0-10-3).
"Individual errors cost us and when you go on the road you need everyone to get their jobs done when there are individual battles," Portland interim coach Gavin Wilkinson said. "You can't give up chances and make individual errors and that's what cost us.
"I think they had four or five chances and they scored three goals," Wilkinson said.
Early in the game, Ricketts denied a scoring attempt by Tyrone Marshall in the first minute with a diving save.
Akpan scored moments later before Portland nearly tied it in the 15th minute, but Darlington Nagbe had his uncontested shot from the slot sail over the crossbar.
Cascio made it 2-0 off a perfectly placed cross from Castrillon in the 27th minute. It was his third of the year.
Pickens didn't have to make a save in the first half. During the second half, Bright Dike missed on an uncontested shot in the 57th for Portland.
Castrillon made it 3-0 with a header off a cross from Drew Moor in the 85th.
Gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin was one of seven Olympians honored by the Rapids at halftime.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.