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Colorado Rapids ready for "psychological and emotional" challenges of busy, decisive July schedule

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – If the last two seasons are anything to go off of, the month of July will tell you exactly how the Colorado Rapids will fare at the end of the year.

In 2012, the Rapids dug that season’s grave with an 0-6 month, all but eliminating them from playoff contention after an auspicious start to that year. Last season, however, Colorado did the opposite, finishing an undefeated 3-0-2 in July to spark a strong second half.

So how will they do in 2014? Head coach Pablo Mastroeni, who was playing for the LA Galaxy at this time last year, prefers to focus on game-to-game action, but he also said his team could be primed for a big month after a solid 7-5-5 start to the campaign.

“This part of the season is about the intangibles,” Mastroeni said of July. “It’s about what makes you a group, to be able to have a [poor] performance like we had [on Friday] and come out this week and be able to fire it up. That’s what you need at this part of the season. It becomes more psychological and emotional than it becomes actual tactics and techniques.”

After spending a decade and a half in MLS before retiring after last season, Mastroeni knows all about the added importance of July. Its 31 days often features the most matches of any month (typically five or six), and added travel, heat and humidity make it the ultimate test for most teams.

The Rapids are already ahead of July 2012’s pointless spell after collecting a draw in their opening match of the month on Friday night. But the Rapids are a completely different squad from the 2012 team and significantly different from even last season. So while only time will tell how Colorado will finish this July, there’s little denying the importance of the month to players and coaches alike.

There are plenty of reasons for the Rapids to be bullish about their July prospects. The club is as healthy as it has been all season, with midfielder Jose Mari the lone significant injury of note, and the Spaniard is expected to return before the end of the month. Perhaps the stars could be aligning for another big run in the month that has determined the Rapids’ fate in each of their last two seasons.

“This is always an important part of the season for every team, every year that’s been played in this league,” Rapids captain Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “If we don’t continue to push now, then when it comes time for those important games [in September and October], then you’re going to be looking for a lot more than what you’re going to have to give at that point.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.