New month, new challenges for Rapids
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids got through a hectic May and can be grateful that June presents a more regular schedule. But it’s a regular schedule with some very difficult games.
The first of those four games is at home against Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia Union on Saturday (9 pm ET, MatchDay Live).
Rapids head coach Gary Smith acknowledged that this weekend’s visitors to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will be more of a challenge than they were last year, when Colorado rolled to a 4-1 victory en route to the MLS Cup.
The key for Smith may be more the Union’s defense than their attack, despite Philadelphia’s offensive outburst during a 6-2 win over Toronto FC last weekend.
“The back four look more comfortable, and I think a lot of that is down to their goalkeeper [Faryd Mondragón], who has been a wonderful acquisition for them,” Smith said this week. “I think they thoroughly deserved their victory [over Toronto], but we have to see whether that was a bit of a flash in the pan.”
Before last weekend’s breakout performance, Philadelphia had scored just eight goals in 10 games. They will also be without striker Carlos Ruiz this weekend because of international duty with Guatemala for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Rapids, who have tied their last five games, are desperate to break out of the draw routine but will have to again contend with the absence of some key players.
Omar Cummings, who has been removed from the Jamaican roster for the Gold Cup, is still rehabbing his sprained ankle and is unlikely to make it to the bench this weekend. Defender Marvell Wynne is out for at least a couple of weeks after limping off towards the end of last week’s game against Sporting Kansas City with a hamstring pull, and fellow center back Drew Moor will face a late fitness test because of a tight hamstring.
The better news for the Rapids is that wide midfielder Jamie Smith looks set to go after missing the last two matches with a calf problem. Forward Caleb Folan, who came on as a late substitute last weekend after missing a few games with a groin issue, will also be available and looks likely to start on the bench.
The Rapids’ approach will not deviate from the norm for their home games, with the emphasis on attack, especially at the start, whatever the personnel fielded.
“There will be no changes for us,” Smith said. “When you look at the big picture with the injuries, suspensions and problems we have had, it’s good that we have managed to keep an unbeaten run.”