Pareja hopes extra holding mid key to Rapids' chemistry

Oscar Pareja, head coach Colorado Rapids

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo.  Time is beginning to run short for Oscar Pareja and his Rapids as they welcome in the Seattle Sounders for a crucial Western Conference clash Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, watch on MLS LIVE).

Three points are of the essence for Colorado, who have lost five straight and are in danger of slipping out of the playoff race altogether. But, Saturday’s match offers the Rapids a chance to leapfrog Chivas USA into the sixth spot in the West and close in on the Galaxy for the fifth and final conference playoff spot. 

“We need points,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “We need a win. And I have been saying that since the beginning. I don’t think it will change. In this business, it’s about points, and obviously you want to have the right way to do it.”

HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, COL 0

Pareja has been tinkering with his lineup, looking for a solution to help his struggling defense. The Rapids have conceded two goals in each of their last four MLS games, including two careless mistakes that resulted in a 2-0 loss to Real Salt Lake last Saturday.

Last week, Pareja used an extra holding midfielder in the loss to Real Salt Lake and also in a 2-1 friendly win against Swansea City on Tuesday night. Steady veteran Jeff Larentowicz paired up with Wells Thompson on Tuesday, and Thompson was linked with Joseph Nane on Saturday when Larentowicz was suspended due to yellow-card accumulation.

Since midfield ace Pablo Mastroeni went down with concussion-like symptoms in March, Colorado have been unable to fill the void of a bulldog-like, defensive-oriented midfield player in the center of the park, and the defense has slumped as a result. But the extra holding midfielder offers the Rapids a chance to help pad their back four.

“I like it a lot,” Pareja said earlier this week of using the extra holding midfielder. “I think the complement for Jeff in this case, it was very good. We saw it in Salt Lake and we have seen it a couple games before, and as I say we’re trying to get the right chemistry. We will find a way.”

HIGHLIGHTS: Colorado down Swansea City, 2-1

Colorado are expected to welcome back striker Conor Casey to the lineup after he missed last Saturday’s loss with a left hamstring strain. But no matter who plays and what the formation looks like, the Rapids recognize that nothing short of three points against Seattle will be acceptable.

“We’re not thinking about anything but just winning a game,” Casey said. “We’re not looking up at the table, nothing. We haven’t won in a while. Period, we just need to go out and win. That’s it.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.