Colorado Rapids vs Sporting Kansas City 10-30-2011 - Preview

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Colorado Rapids
0 - 2
Final
Sporting Kansas City
MLS Playoffs
October 30, 2011
7:30pm EDT
Dick's Sporting Goods Park
FOX Soccer

Preview: Ailing Rapids host Sporting KC in Eastern semis

COLORADO RAPIDS v SPORTING KC
Sun., Oct. 30, Dick's Sporting Goods Park (7:30 p.m. ET; FOX Soccer; TSN2)

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo, SAR (bench): Frank Anderson; JAR (opposite): Ian Anderson; 4th: Juan Guzman

INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS -- OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); MF Jamie Smith (R knee ACL tear); DF Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (concussion); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain) ... SPORTING KANSAS CITY -- OUT: DF Daneil Cyrus (L foot fracture); MF Luke Sassano (R knee sprain); MF Peterson Joseph (R knee surgery); MF Konrad Warzycha (R knee surgery)

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COLORADO RAPIDS

  • After Sanna Nyassi and Omar Cummings had partnered in attack over the final three league games of the season, Rapids coach Gary Smith moved Nyassi back to the flank for the wild card, installing Caleb Folan alongside Cummings. “It was a more attacking lineup than usual,” Cummings said. “We’ve been talking about it all day, even all week. We have to do it, we have to get to the next stage, the next game. We gave it our all and we move on to the next stage.”
  • Cummings came through with his first playoff goal as Colorado defeated Columbus 1-0 in Commerce City for a second consecutive year. Cummings had scored just four goals in all competitions coming into the game. “That’s the season if you don’t score, so I was not trying to concentrate on it too much,” Cummings said. “It’s playoff time and time to get some playoff goals.”
  • Brian Mullan, one of two five-time MLS Cup winners who is making his 11th consecutive appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs, operated on the opposite flank and started the play leading to the lone goal. “He never ceases to amaze, does he?” Rapids head coach Gary Smith said. “He’s like a Duracell battery, he just keeps going. He’s got enough passion to drive himself and plenty of others on the team. On occasions like this, when you’re in or you’re out and there’s no coming back from a poor result or a bad mistake, you want guys like Brian on your team.”
  • The Rapids also suffered a big blow late in the game when Jamie Smith was stretchered off with what was diagnosed as a torn ACL in his right knee. Smith will be out for the remainder of the postseason.
  • The Rapids were without captain Pablo Mastroeni, still suffering from a concussion. Gary Smith said Mastroeni is considered doubtful for the first leg against KC. “We’re running out of bodies in there, that’s for sure,” Gary Smith said. “To try and keep the team as aggressive and experienced as possible might mean popping bodies into areas that they’re not necessarily comfortable or happy with. Kansas City, in many ways, are a different prospect. They have different players and slightly different styles and formats with how they play, so there are some choices to make.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY

  • With their victory in the season finale at D.C. United, Sporting finished atop the Eastern Conference, meaning Livestrong Sporting Park will host a potential conference championship. “Whether it’s champions or just No. 1 seed, it doesn’t really matter to us,” said defender Matt Besler. “We have home field advantage. That’s all we care about.”
  • Sporting won three of their final four games and are unbeaten in their last five home games. They have lost just three times since the midpoint of the season, a mark rivaled this year by only Seattle. “The guys are confident,” KC manager Peter Vermes said. “They should be confident. They’ve come a long way. We’ve knocked down some major hurdles along the way. But we’re definitely not overconfident. We’re extremely respectful of all the opponents out there that are in the playoffs. We realized that anything can happen with anybody.”
  • SKC has not lost back-to-back games since dropping five in a row April 16-May 21 along their 10-game season-opening road trip. “The path we took makes it sweeter,” Besler said. “It’s probably not the path that I’d like to choose every year. The fact is we climbed back from last place, though. It feels a little more special.”
  • The Wizards also come into the postseason after back-to-back shutouts, their first since June 17-22. “The best thing is that we’re on a little bit of a run headed into the playoffs,” C.J. Sapong said. “This is what we wanted to do no matter if we were a wild card team or in first place. We took care of that and if we keep it rolling, we’ll do well.”
  • Just six players on the Sporting roster have experience in the MLS Cup Playoffs: Davy Arnaud, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza, Michael Harrington, Luke Sassano and Shavar Thomas. “For us, there’s no doubt that there is maybe some experience that we have to gain by going through it,” said Vermes. “But I don’t think that’s going to be the one issue that tips the scales either way. If we hadn’t played in enough big games up until now, I might be concerned.”

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