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11/23 FINAL
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Rapids hope Portland win can provide boost for busy July

Casey and Castrillon

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It wasn’t quite a must-win, but Saturday night’s 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers was as vital a three points as the Colorado Rapids have had all season.

Following two stinging defeats in a row, the Rapids responded with a vengeance, scoring twice in the game’s first 22 minutes and coasting to a comfortable win against a key Western Conference rival. And while postgame, the Rapids downplayed the must-win component, there was certainly an extra sweet taste of victory for Oscar Pareja’s men.

“When you lose two games in a row, you feel that and you have to bounce back,” Pareja said afterward. “I think the group has been working well enough to believe that they will do it. To be quite honest, the way I saw the team training this week, we were not too stressed about it. I thought the boys showed it on the field with a lot of composure and patience.”

With the LA Galaxy losing to San Jose that same evening, the win also vaulted the Rapids back into the playoff picture, putting them into the fifth and final spot in the West. Doing so with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball has the entire team thinking bigger.

“It’s important for us,” said striker Conor Casey, who recorded his first goal of the season on a 22nd-minute header. “We haven’t really done that yet this year, a full 90 where we competed for the whole time. To go up two goals in the first half, we made it a lot easier on ourselves. We needed a game like that to get our confidence back.”

But while Saturday’s convincing win brought points, confidence and a brief smile of relief to the Rapids locker room, a crucial matchup with Vancouver looms on Wednesday (9:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online), and a busy July schedule filled with conference opponents could make the next month make-or-break for the men in Burgundy.

“The next four weeks are going to be real busy,” midfielder Jamie Smith said. “I think that it’s just a case of taking it a game at a time. The coach kind of emphasized that, and I thought that’s what we did. It was a solid, 90-minute performance – it wasn’t good here, good there, it was the full 90 minutes we dominated, and it sets us up well for the next three or four weeks.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.