Rapids getting groove back, but finishing must be tighter

Sanna Nyassi hurdles Nick Rimando

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids may not have secured their spot in the postseason after Friday’s scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake, but the team continued to show improved form ahead of the playoffs.

In their last three home games, the Rapids have tied both RSL and the San Jose Earthquakes while also eking out a 1-0 victory over FC Dallas. It’s not exactly the barnstorming play that saw the team make a late run to qualify into the playoffs and ultimately win the MLS Cup, but there is a confidence coming back to the Rapids at just the right time.

HIGHLIGHTS: Rapids 0, RSL 0
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“I’d like to think that everyone who came here tonight is starting to see a side with some of that passion, desire and confidence we showed [last year],” said Colorado head coach Gary Smith. “I think they are getting back into the groove.”

Defender Kosuke Kimura, who has started every MLS game this year, said the team’s form is much better than a month ago, and that they just need to hone their finishing in what will inevitably be close race for a playoff spot - not to mention the tight contests that characterize the postseason.

“We need to finish no matter what,” Kimura told MLSsoccer.com. “It doesn’t matter how many chances we create – we have to finish. It’s those fine moments in the playoffs that will count. It’s coming, the urgency is there. We still need to dig in and keep going.”

The Rapids were unable to clinch a place in the postseason against RSL and may need to get a result against Vancouver in their final game of the regular season to assure a spot. But they have occupied that second wildcard spot for a long time now and with the finish line so close, it seems unlikely Colorado will fail at the last moment to get into the playoffs – especially with all the players talking a good postseason game.

“I think we are getting close to where we were at this time last year,” second-half substitute Macoumba Kandji told MLSsoccer.com. “We have been getting unlucky in front of goal, but I think we are definitely building that little bit of momentum going into the playoffs, which is the best ting that could happen for us.”

Smith, frustrated by some of the referring decisions – he felt that Sanna Nyassi should have earned  a penalty kick in the first half, though replays showed no contact between the attacker and ref Nick Rimando – paid tribute to his players for their effort and discipline against a side he called one of the best in MLS.

“That performance, whilst we haven’t been able to convert, is as good as any performance because of the caliber of our opponent [is as good] as we have seen in a good while," Smith said. "It should certainly catapult them into midweek [in a CCL match against Santos Laguna], Vancouver, and hopefully we can keep that momentum going into what we seriously hope to be a home wildcard game.”

The Rapids play Santos in Mexico next Wednesday in their final CONCACAF Champions League group game. They play on the road in Vancouver on October 22.