With CCL dreams quashed, Rapids look to MLS slate

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – After a disappointing 2-1 home loss to Honduran club Real España on Wednesday night, the Colorado Rapids all but admitted their first-ever CONCACAF Champions League experience was over.

It was another grim moment in the Rapids’ five-game losing streak across all competitions. The only solace they can take in it is that they can now focus more fully on their four remaining MLS games, starting Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), and head coach Gary Smith will be putting his first team on the field after resting several of his starters on Wednesday.

“Saturday night, we have a big game against San Jose, a team that again we feel we match up well against,” said defender Drew Moor. “We just need to get results. This is the time of year last year that we started to put together a nice run, and I don’t want to call upon last year too much, but we have the same characters, the same group of guys in here as last year.”

Moor and Marvell Wynne will come back into the fold on defense, while Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz will take up their usual spots in central midfield. All four players were rested against Real España.

Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi, who were both used as second-half substitutes midweek, are likely to start Saturday night as well. There could also be a place for midfielder Jamie Smith, who came on for about half an hour Wednesday night after a missing nearly two months due to injury.

The task is clear for the Rapids: Get on the board first. In each of their last five losses, Colorado have given up the first goal of the match. Gary Smith said that a little bit of extra resolve – and luck – would go some ways to helping the team out of their slump.

But with 11 goals conceded in those five games, it’s no surprise he also mentioned wanting a clean sheet.

“I think getting the first goal would be huge,” Wednesday's goal scorer, Andre Akpan, said. “Any game I can think of this season where we’ve gotten the first goal, it’s been a pretty successful game.”

The Rapids play three of their remaining four MLS games in the friendly confines of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and currently sit five points clear of the cutoff for the playoffs. But in addition to Saturday’s game against San Jose, Colorado must negotiate a schedule that includes FC Dallas and scorching-hot Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Real Salt Lake.

“We are going to have some tough games and no tougher than this weekend, and there will be added pressure to get a result,” Gary Smith said. “But I fully expect the group that turns out at the weekend to get the result and that has always been uppermost in my mind.”