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Eastern Conference Championship

Rapids brace for tough go at confined Buck Shaw Stadium

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The last time the Colorado Rapids played San Jose, defender Kosuke Kimura scored an improbable goal to clinch the 2010 Eastern Conference championship.

Both teams at the time were on great streaks that had pushed them deep into the postseason. Things haven’t gone as well this season for the Earthquakes, who are currently on a 10-game winless run, their last MLS victory coming June 11 against D.C. United.

The Rapids, by contrast, are currently on a good stretch with four wins in their last six games.

Recent form somewhat goes out of the window, however, on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) at Buck Shaw Stadium — a venue at which the Rapids find difficult to play. Not to mention San Jose may have some payback in mind for last year.

FLASHBACK: Kimura's improbable goal
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“They have a little bitter taste from the game against us last year,” Kimura (above) told MLSsoccer.com. “It will be a tough game — we always struggle with their tight pitch there. But we have to be more demanding. We really need to manage the game well by controlling the ball.”

Since Conor Casey’s season-ending injury last month, the Rapids have relied heavily on speedy duo Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi up front for most of their goalscoring chances. But the pair are doubtful for this weekend’s game having both played for their countries this week, Cummings for Jamaica in China and Nyassi at home in Gambia.

Cummings was expected to join up with the Rapids in San Jose on Friday. Nyassi, on the other hand, is still making his way back from West Africa and seems the more doubtful of the two to make it.

Gary Smith should be able to call upon filly fit Caleb Folan and Macoumba Kandji, as well as Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa as other forward options. There may even be a role for Jamie Smith as an advanced midfielder/withdrawn forward. The head coach is keeping his options open while he assesses whether either or both of Nyassi and Cummings can make it for the San Jose game.

If they can’t, it is an opportune time for Smith and his players to get used to rotating the squad with five games coming up in a crazy schedule over the next two weeks.

“Hopefully Sanna and Omar will play, but it will be a tough ask for them with all that travel,” Kimura said. “We need to rotate some players.”

Whoever does play on Saturday, and despite their opponent’s recent form, Colorado won’t be taking San Jose lightly and they will be focusing on that game only even with the barrage of matches coming up this month. Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz says the Quakes may be a wounded tiger, but they will be dangerous because of that.

“They are having a tough time, but they always have something on their side when they are playing at home which is their stadium and the crowd,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “Anything can happen in MLS games and a lot of that is due to the fixtures and it’s tough to play there. Like anything, you get a team with their backs against the wall playing at home and it’s going to be a difficult game.”