COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids may have enjoyed some time off recently, but there’s nothing like an end-of-season tilt against your biggest rivals to get the adrenalin pumping again.
Throw in playoff implications and the chance to grab some silverware, and the scene is set for an enthralling encounter at Dick’s Sorting Goods Park on Friday night.
Head coach Gary Smith knows his players will be both rested and more than up for the nationally televised game against Real Salt Lake (10:30 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“Nothing will get the guys going like a local derby against Salt Lake,” Smith said. “If it was anyone else, it might be that the guys could be a tad rusty or a few cobwebs hanging around after a two-week break having played two games a week for however long. I don’t suspect that. Salt Lake will come here looking to secure the Rocky Mountain Cup and to get another one over us if they can and we’ll be looking to win it and, of course, try and rubber-stamp our postseason."
The defending MLS Cup champions, who could secure a playoff spot with a win Friday night in combination with a few other results, last played against FC Dallas Oct. 1, securing a vital 1-0 win and breaking a winless streak that had stretched back to mid-August. That victory built on an encouraging second half performance in the 1-1 tie with San Jose the previous week and the remarkable win in El Salvador a few days before as a largely reserve side beat Isidro Metapán in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The club’s recent good form is coming at just the right time. After a wretched slump that saw five defeats in a row in both league and CCL play, the last three games are a big sign that fortunes may be turning.
Securing the Rocky Mountain Cup – the Rapids face a 1-0 deficit from the corresponding game in Utah Apr. 13 – and a postseason spot Friday night would do wonders for the team’s confidence as the curtain comes down on the regular season. The Rapids face a difficult CCL game against Santos Laguna in Mexico Oct. 19 and a final MLS game on the road in Vancouver Oct. 22.
“We were hoping that that would translate into the first team,” midfielder Ross LaBauex told MLSsoccer.com about the victory over Metapán. “So, it was great we got the three points [vs. Dallas] and now we are going to push on these last two games and the one Champions League game and I think we can get results and playoff time.”
Eddie Ababio, who scored against Metapán on his pro debut, is thinking even bigger.
“We are just going to keep it rolling,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “Hopefully, we can get a little momentum for the playoffs and defend our cup.”