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INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH
3 pm MT (ESPN2)
A pair of teams who suffered U.S. Open Cup elimination at the hands of MLS opposition at midweek come together on national TV trying to escape mid-table mediocrity. The Colorado Rapids return home winless in their last three games, coming off a dismal loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in the league last weekend - then a loss to the Dallas Burn in the Open Cup. The Columbus Crew have just one win in their last six contests, and also fell in the Open Cup on Tuesday, losing on a golden goal to the Chicago Fire.
REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Emiliano Monje; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Hilario Grajeda
MLS Career: 51 games; FC/gm: 34.0; Y/gm: 4.3; R: 9; pens: 20
Games involving Rapids: P8 W2 L4 T2; FC/gm: 30.6; Y/gm: 5.1; R: 2; pens: 2
Games involving Crew: P9 W5 L2 T2; FC/gm: 33.3; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 2; pens: 0
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: DF Pablo Mastroeni (L quadriceps strain); MD Darryl Powell (L hamstring strain); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); DF Gary Sullivan (L leg stress fracture); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain); PROBABLE: FW Rey Angel Martinez (broken toe); DF Ritchie Kotschau (L knee)QUESTIONABLE: FW Rey Angel Martinez (broken toe); PROBABLE: DF Ritchie Kotschau (L knee); FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain); FW Alberto Delgado (R quadriceps contusion)
COLUMBUS CREW - OUT: GK Matt Jordan (L ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: DF Stephen Herdsman (L quad strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: COL: Darryl Powell (18 CP)
ALL-TIME (19 meetings): Rapids 12 wins (2 shootout), 34 goals ... Crew 4 wins (1 shootout), 26 goals ... 3 draws
AT DENVER: (8 meetings): Rapids 6 wins (1 shootout), 11 goals ... Crew 1 win (0 shootout), 8 goals ... 1 draw
This is the second of three meetings between the two clubs this season, the first of two in the Mile High City. They meet here again in the season finale on Oct. 16.
In the only Crew Stadium meeting this year on June 26, the Rapids claimed a 2-1 win behind two first-half goals. Jean-Philippe Peguero tapped home a cross in the heart of the box to put the Rapids ahead on 37 minutes, then just before halftime, Eric Denton turned a low centering pass into his own goal to double the Colorado advantage.
Edson Buddle drove home a shot from the heart of the area to pull a goal back for the Crew in the 89th minute, then the visitors escaped with the full three points when Chris Henderson cleared a header off the line in the dying moments of the match.
Here's Greg Andrulis's team (3-4-1-2): Jon Busch - Nelson Akwari (Duncan Oughton 46), Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Frankie Hejduk (Michael Ritch 82), Simon Elliott, Manny Lagos, Eric Denton - Kyle Martino - Jeff Cunningham, David Testo (Edson Buddle 46).
Here's Tim Hankinson's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Ritchie Kotschau - Chris Henderson, Matt Crawford, Seth Trembly, Joey DiGiamarino (Adrian Cann 80) - Jean Philippe Peguero, Jordan Cila (Gary Sullivan 89)
A year ago, each team won once on home ground. The Crew recorded a 2-0 victory on May 10 in Columbus (Cunningham 25 pen, McBride 43), while the Rapids claimed a 2-1 golden goal triumph at Invesco Field on Aug. 16 (Spencer 57, Chung 91 - Buddle 72).
The Rapids win in the first meeting this season was the first by a road team since July 4, 1999, ending a run of seven matches. That was also the only Crew victory in series history in Colorado, the Rapids having won the last three at home.
The Rapids won eight of the first nine meetings between the two teams - with the only Crew victory in that time coming by shootout after a regulation draw. Since, the Rapids have won four times, the Crew three and three matches have ended drawn.
Edson Buddle has 3 goals to lead current Crew players. Manny Lagos has 2 goals, 5 assists, but none of his points have come while with Columbus; Buddle has 1 assist. Just three other current Crew players have points against the Rapids - Jeff Cunningham (1 goal, 2 assists), Simon Elliott and Brian Maisonneuve (each 1 goal, 1 assist).
Chris Henderson and Mark Chung lead current Rapids players with 3 goals each against Columbus. Henderson also has 8 assists, but just 1 goal, 7 assists have come while with Colorado. Chung also has 3 assists; just 1 goal has come with the Rapids. Just four other current Rapids - Ritchie Kotschau, Joey DiGiamarino and John Spencer all have 2 goals v the Crew, while Peguero has 1.
Coaches record: Greg Andrulis v COL: P6 W1 L3 T2 ... Tim Hankinson vs. CLB: P16 W11 L5 T2
The Colorado Rapids saw their winless streak run to three games with an abject 3-1 defeat by the San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium last Saturday in league play, then were dumped out of the Open Cup by the Dallas Burn at midweek. The Rapids still maintain hold on third place in the Western Conference with 22 points from 17 matches, two points ahead of the Earthquakes and Burn, but 10 points behind the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Earthquakes put together their finest performance of the season - with something close to a first-choice team for the first time in months - in the victory against the Rapids.
A surgical passing movement set up the Quakes' and Ching's first, ripping home a perfectly-weighted through ball from Ronnie Ekelund from just inside the area (22).
The Quakes then scored twice in five minutes after the break to put away the match. Ching grabbed his second when he tapped in from almost on the goal line after a wild sequence that saw Landon Donovan stopped twice in short order, first by Joe Cannon, then by the post. But Donovan found Ramiro Corrales for a third bite at the cherry, and he drove a low cross through a host of Rapids defenders to find Ching (50). Donovan then hit for the third, drilling home first-time a Brian Mullan cross whipped in from the right flank.
Seth Trembly pulled back a consolation goal for the Rapids seven minutes from the final whistle when he hammered home a shot from all of 25 yards past Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad.
"The first half was the longest half I've had in a long time," said Cannon. "I think this was our worst game of the season."
Rapids coach Tim Hankinson made three changes to the team that played to a scoreless draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy three days earlier at home. Pablo Mastroeni was lost to a quadriceps injury the day before the match, meaning Ritchie Kotschau came back into the team in central defense.
With Darryl Powell also lost to a hamstring injury suffered in the Galaxy match, Mark Chung also returned to the lineup, making his first since May 29 (nine matches). Jean-Philippe Peguero also made his first start in five matches, coming in for Alberto Delgado.
Here's Hankinson's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Matt Crawford - Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman (Rey Angel Martinez 70), Mark Chung, Jordan Cila (Joey DiGiamarino 46) - Jean-Philippe Peguero (Seth Trembly 63), John Spencer.
Then on Tuesday, the Rapids were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 loss to the Dallas Burn at Cotton Bowl, the Burn scoring all three goals in a 15-minute blitz after the hour mark.
Ronnie O'Brien gave the Burn a 60th-minute lead with a clinical finish from the heart of the penalty area, then Eddie Johnson grabbed the first of his two goals when he hammered home the rebound of an O'Brien shot that came back off the post (67).
Johnson capped off the scoring when he finished off a breakaway after he was sent in alone by Ramon Nuñez in the 75th minute. The Rapids then finished the game with 10 men when Nat Borchers was sent off.
Here's Hankinson's team: Scott Vallow (Joe Cannon 70) - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Joey DiGiamarino (Kyle Beckerman 46), Chris Henderson, Matt Crawford, Seth Trembly, Mark Chung, Jordan Cila (Alberto Delgado 57), John Spencer (Rey Angel Martinez 64)
"We cut our own throats," Hankinson said. "We made mistakes that led practically to all of their goals. We had too many bad passes out the back and too many giveaways in the midfield that turned into counters when we got around their goal. We didn't string our passes together to find the open man."
The Columbus Crew played to their second consecutive draw and had their unbeaten run extended to three games, sharing the points in a 1-1 match with the New England Revolution last weekend, then at midweek, the 2002 Open Cup champions were eliminated at the first test for the second consecutive season, losing 2-1 to the Chicago Fire on a golden goal. The Crew are still in third place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points from 15 matches, three behind the Eastern Conference-leading MetroStars.
The Revolution extended their unbeaten run to three games, but still failed to take advantage and climb out of the East cellar as the Crew came back to grab a draw at home.
Clint Dempsey gave the visitors a deserved lead when he brought down a terrific early cross from Richie Baker and prodded the ball home from close range (31). But a well-worked move just before halftime pulled the Crew level, Jeff Cunningham slipping through a perfect pass for Kyle Martino to run onto, rolling an angled shot inside the far post.
Crew coach Greg Andrulis made one change to the team that played to a scoreless draw with the Dallas Burn the previous weekend, Frankie Hejduk returning to the team on the right side of midfield, coming in for rookie Chris Wingert. But that changed barely a half-hour into the match, the Crew's early performance seeing Andrulis bring Wingert on for Eric Denton, Wingert going to the right as Hejduk changed flanks.
"If I had seven subs, I think we would have made them in the first half," Andrulis said.
Here's Andrulis's team (3-4-1-2): Jon Busch - Duncan Oughton, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall - Frankie Hejduk, Simon Elliott, Ross Paule, Eric Denton (Chris Wingert 28) - Kyle Martino - Edson Buddle (Michael Ritch 87), Jeff Cunningham (Manny Lagos 78).
"It was a bad tie," Andrulis said. "The way we started was unacceptable. To the guys' credit, we were able to come out in the second half and play with a bit of passion."
Still, Andrulis had some questioning his decisions when he took off both starting strikers before the end of the match. : "The middle was so bogged down we were trying to attack from wide spaces and it wasn't a matter of putting in one of our short forwards. I was trying to get a good target in there," he said of the change of Cunningham, and of Buddle: "He ran out of gas."
Then on Tuesday, the Crew were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup in their first match for the second season running, a Damani Ralph golden goal giving the Chicago Fire a 2-1 victory at Crew Stadium.
Frankie Hejduk headed home a Chris Wingert cross to give the home side a 27th-minute lead, but Ralph pulled the Fire level from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after Duncan Oughton hacked down Andy Williams in the box.
Then in extra-time of the fractious encounter, Edson Buddle was sent off in the 97th minute for a foul on Logan Pause, and nine minutes later Ralph sent the Fire through to the quarterfinals, nodding home a lofted Chris Armas free kick.
Here's Andrulis's team: Jon Busch, Duncan Oughton, Robin Fraser, Chad Marshall (Brian Maisonneuve 83), Chris Wingert (Stephen Herdsman 75) (Eric Denton 93+), Simon Elliott, Kyle Martino, Ross Paule, Frankie Hejduk, Edson Buddle, Jeff Cunningham
A year ago, the Crew were left fuming after a 4-3 loss in the fourth round to the MetroStars at home. Things changed little in a year. "We have a lot of questions about what happened tonight," Andrulis said. "They're never going to get answered. We've just got to deal with it."