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Rapids carry heavy hearts to RSL after local tragedies

RSL vs. Colorado, 7-20

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The Colorado Rapids may find it hard to fully concentrate on soccer as they head to Salt Lake City with heavy hearts for Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Cup clash at the Rio Tinto, with this week’s loss of a member of the Rapids staff, along with Friday morning's deadly mass shooting in nearby Aurora fresh in mind.

It’s been a difficult week off the pitch for the Rapids, who will be playing after the loss of 32-year-old Marisa Colaiano (right), the club's senior manager of community relations, who died of complications from multiple sclerosis on Tuesday. Several players re-scheduled their flights to Salt Lake City in order to attend Colaiano’s Friday funeral, and black armbands will be worn on Saturday to honor the long-time team employee.

“Our Rapids family lost a very special person this week,” team president Tim Hinchey said in a statement. “Marisa was the consummate professional who made every person around her better. But more importantly, her spirit of generosity and kindness made a tremendous impact on everyone she touched. We will miss our friend.”

Saturday’s game (10 pm ET, MLS Live) will also take place less than two days after Friday morning’s deadly Aurora shooting at a movie theater – which occurred just 10 miles from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – and not far from several player’s residences. Initial indications were that no members of the team were harmed in the shooting.

“Everybody here is shocked and devastated by the events last night in Aurora,” Rapids team spokesman David Lindholm told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “Many of our players and staff live in and around Aurora and know people that have been affected by the tragedy. Like everyone, we’re still learning about people in our organization that have been affected. So we’ll be trying to offer our support wherever we can. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that’s involved.”

The Rapids enter Saturday’s game with four straight losses and six defeats in their past seven contests, including a 2-1 setback at Toronto on Wednesday. Colorado haven’t won at Rio Tinto Stadium since April 30, 2007 – a span of seven matches – including a 2-0 loss there on April 7.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.