COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Another day, another city.
The Colorado Rapids had barely returned from a very long trip to Torreón, Mexico – where they played Wednesday night in their CONCACAF Champions League finale against Santos Laguna – before they took off again, this time bound for Canada to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in their MLS regular-season finale on Saturday (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
It was a three-country tour in as many days, but there will be no rest for the travel-weary Rapids. Despite punching their playoff ticket last weekend, they need a win against Vancouver to guarantee themselves second place in the wild card standings. If they do so, they would earn home-field advantage a play-in game next Thursday to reach the conference semifinals next weekend.
“I think this is a very big game for us and we will be going there with a similar attitude to recent weeks,” defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com about Saturday’s matchup. “We have to get a win. You don’t want to travel if you don’t have to, and this would make the picture much clearer.”
Moor himself did not make the trip to Vancouver because of card accumulation, while Pablo Mastroeni was kept in Colorado with ongoing symptoms from the concussion sustained against Real Salt Lake last Friday.
That could mean a second start in three days for Jeff Larentowicz and Ross LaBauex in central midfield, who both played there against Santos. Joseph Nane, another alternative in central midfield, has been having visa issues and did not travel to Mexico as a result, making his participation in the Vancouver game unlikely. Wells Thompson played part of the Santos game more centrally.
The squad will be boosted by the presence of midfielder Brian Mullan and defender Tyrone Marshall, veterans who stayed home this week in preparation for the Whitecaps and will surely start. Goalkeeper Matt Pickens and wide midfielder Jamie Smith also stayed in Colorado this week and will likely start, though Smith is struggling with a persistent calf injury.
Sanna Nyassi and Omar Cummings, who both looked lively as second half substitutes against Santos, will probably get the nod up front.
Head coach Gary Smith said Vancouver will offer a very different challenge to his side than the one they got in Mexico this week.
“What we are going to run into this weekend and what we have run into [in CCL] are poles apart,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s a quick turnaround and it won’t be easy but this is a strong group.”