COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Three straight losses and three road games around the corner. If ever there was a must-win game this early in the season for the Colorado Rapids, it is Saturday night’s home fixture against the struggling Chicago Fire (9 p.m. ET; Watch LIVE online).
As well as the recent defeats on the road to FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake, there was last Friday’s controversial 1-0 home defeat to the Seattle Sounders, which was impacted by Brian Mullan’s tackle that resulted in Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani breaking his right leg in two places. On Thursday the league handed Mullan his suspension: a total of 10 games and a fine of $5,000.
The team has also found itself without some key players because of injuries, such as Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey. The adversity continues to pile on Gary Smith’s men.
“We are in a little bit of turmoil ourselves,” the head coach said earlier this week. “There have been a number of injuries, we have had international call-ups and now there is the suspension. We are having to dig deep into our squad right now.”
Casey, dogged with injury most of this season, has still not returned to training since limping off against D.C. United April 3. Fellow striker Quincy Amarikwa also remains out injured with an ankle sprain. Adding to the list of forwards carrying knocks is Caleb Folan. Defender Marvell Wynne is also a doubt tomorrow because of sore muscles.
“Both Caleb and Marvell have tight muscle groups,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “We are waiting on both of them and I would say Caleb has a better chance than Marvell right now.”
Following Saturday’s game, the Rapids face a difficult stretch of three road games in 10 days against Houston, New England and D.C. United. Smith knows the upcoming schedule and recent results have been challenging but he’s not quite ready to push the panic button just yet.
“It is going to test our resolve and I hope we are going to weather this period,” he said. “I don’t think that the recent results are a true reflection of what this group is about and I do think that the circumstances have gone against us.
“It’s very early in the season to be getting alarmed. The only thing I am alarmed about right now is trying to get a starting eleven out because of all the injuries.”
A win Saturday against Chicago would no doubt improve everyone’s spirits ahead of the road trips and help begin to put the Mullan incident behind the club.
“The players are fine; there are no problems whatsoever,” Smith said after Thursday’s suspension ruling. “Everyone feels for Brian [Mullan] as well as Steve [Zakuani], of course. They [Rapids players] are in very good spirits and looking confident. The players will be trying to set the record straight on the field this weekend and then we can turn our attention to supporting Brian in whatever way we can.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 9 p.m. ET at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.