There may just be a sense that the Colorado Rapids are turning a corner.
Unbeaten in their last three games after three previous losses on the bounce, the Rapids face D.C. United on the road on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; Direct Kick/MatchDay Live) before a string of home games.
If they can get something out of this weekend’s game, they would not only continue their good recent run but also be in a good position for a home stretch in which they face Toronto, Sporting KC and the Philadelphia Union over three straight weekends.
The big question mark is injuries, especially up top. It’s been a constant all season and on Saturday it looks as though another striking combination will take the field.
With Omar Cummings, Caleb Folan and Macoumba Kandji all sidelined, the Rapids will rotate a returning Conor Casey, Quincy Amarikwa and Andre Akpan over the 90 minutes on Saturday.
Casey has been out since April 3 when he pulled a hamstring in the 4-1 home victory over D.C. United. Head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week that Casey had a 75 to 80 percent chance of playing on Saturday, and then later in the week he added that the big striker was “looking good” after several workouts. In a video released by the club, Casey himself suggested he may be on the bench.
WATCH: Casey discusses weekend
Whatever the case, he likely won’t go 90 minutes, which means further opportunities for Amarikwa and Akpan. Smith has been very impressed with the two youngsters, both of whom have scored one goal each this season.
“They have been very bright,” he said. “These guys are going to be in a really good position when it comes to the latter stages of the season with their good form now. The rotation of bodies is giving us a strong group.”
Other parts of the field look a little more predictable. Sanna Nyassi did travel with the group after missing the last road trip with a sore back and could be an impact player off the bench.
Also in midfield, Jamie Smith — rested for most of the New England game last weekend — is back fit. In defense, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the back four lines up very similarly to the last two away games. Smith has more options with Marvell Wynne, who missed part of the Houston game last week, now fully fit.
The Rapids have had a tendency in the past few weeks to grind out results in difficult circumstances. Saturday will present another tough challenge and the team will be anxious to get at least a point ahead of the home swing when they may be able to welcome back some big name strikers.
“The aim is to manage tough games away from home,” Smith said. “I have had four first-choice strikers out and yet we are still in a very nice position. We want to add points on the board during this difficult spell.”