Record-setting heat forces Rapids to alter practice plans

Oscar Pareja

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Somebody get the Colorado Rapids a snow cone.

After Denver matched an all-time record high temperature of 105 degrees on Monday and touched triple digits again Tuesday, Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja decided to push the Rapids’ practice times back an hour for the rest of the week to help his team beat the record-setting heat.

“We are trying to do it earlier, for sure, hoping that that can help us,” a sweat-laden Pareja told reporters on Tuesday. “But the heat is there. But you know we can’t stop working. Especially the first two days of the week, you have to work hard. And there’s no excuses. So we’re trying to make this happen. This weather is what it is, and we’ve got to get through it.”

The Rapids moved their regular 10 am practice up to 9 am for the rest of the week, along with cancelling Wednesday’s practice to avoid the worst of the sweltering temperatures. But with the mercury forecasted to climb into the upper 90s for Saturday’s game against Portland at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, MLS Live), the Rapids are looking at the heat – and the fact they are training all week long in it – as a possible additional advantage.

“With the heat, with the altitude, we have to take advantage,” defender and captain Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We have to get after Portland and any other team that comes in with this kind of heat. But at the end of the day, it’s the same for both teams.”

But despite playing at altitude and a week of adapting to the extreme heat, Pareja is focused on drilling home the same concepts at practice, with or without record-setting temperatures.

“You always think about other factors, the altitude, the heat or the rain,” Pareja said. “But the only advantage that you have is playing well. When you play well, that’s what it is. The game is that. Because sometimes you’re affecting many other things and then the reality is that you have to come up on the game and make things happen. [It’s] simple like that.”

In the meantime, the Rapids are sweating through practice and hoping the weatherman has cooler temperatures to offer soon in his forecast.

“It’s hot, you never get used to the heat,” said Arizona native and Rapids forward Tony Cascio, who during the heat wave has been sleeping on an air mattress in his air-conditioned living room. “You come out here and everyone’s dying. You can get used to it to a certain point, but it’s not like the winter. It’s so much different and you get burnt. I’d take cold just because you can bundle up.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.