Colorado Rapids await blizzard on Saturday, welcome back goalkeeper Matt Pickens

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — A month ago, Colorado Rapids midfielder Kevin Harbottle was enjoying mid-summer weather in his native Chile.

Now, he’s preparing to play in a foot of snow for his new team’s home opener on Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for metro Denver for Saturday, calling for as much as 18 inches of snow and blizzard-like conditions, perfectly coinciding with the Rapids’ home opener against the Philadelphia Union (6 pm ET, watch LIVE online) on Saturday afternoon.

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“It’ll be totally different for me,” Harbottle told MLSsoccer.com following practice on Friday. “It’ll be complicated, the ball totally changes. But you’ve got to adjust.”

The Rapids practiced with orange balls on Friday and will use them for Saturday’s game. Aside from that, the team has stressed they won’t adjust their plan despite the game-changing conditions the heavy snow could present.

In the meantime, however, there are plenty of awkward pairings in the offing for the Rapids and the wintry forecast. Rookie striker Deshorn Brown, a Jamaican native who played his college soccer in Alabama and Florida, isn’t exactly familiar with playing in chilly weather, let alone snow past his ankles.

“It’s a totally different environment,” Brown told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “But I think it’s going to be awesome.”

A club official told MLSsoccer.com this week that only a storm of “biblical” proportions would potentially postpone or cancel the game.

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While the winter wonderland will undoubtedly be the focal point of Saturday’s game, the Rapids received positive injury news this week as well. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens practiced fully and trained with the first team on Friday.

While Pickens declined to speak to reporters on Friday, Colorado head coach Oscar Pareja confirmed that his No. 1 will play on Saturday after missing the season opener with soreness in his leg. Backup ‘keeper Steward Ceus’ first-half gaffe led to FC Dallas’ lone goal in the Rapids’ 1-0 loss in their season opener last Saturday.

Striker Edson Buddle – the replacement for Conor Casey, the Rapids’ all-time leading goalscorer who is expected to play for Philadelphia on Saturday – is not expected to play as he continues to recover from fluid buildup in his right knee.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.