COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – On Wednesday, Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall prophesied that if his team started out slow against the Colorado Rapids in their playoff matchup on Thursday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Crew were, in Marshall's words, "done."
Sound the charge for Colorado. And despite mustering 10 goals in their last 10 matches, the Rapids are confident about their offense ahead of their win-or-go-home match with Columbus (10 pm ET, live stream on MLSsoccer.com)
“We know we are going to score,” defender Kosuke Kimura told MLSsoccer.com. “So many players have scored this year. Maybe more goals are scored from defenders and midfielders, but that’s what a good team does. If the forwards don’t score, we’ve still got their back. It doesn’t matter who scores, I don’t care.”
Indeed, the Rapids’ leading goal scorer in the regular season was defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (7). With team captain Pablo Mastroeni sidelined with a concussion problem, it looks like head coach Gary Smith will partner Larentowicz in central midfield with either Jamie Smith or Wells Thompson. Last weekend, Gary Smith partnered Larentowicz with Joseph Nane, but he might be looking for more creativity tonight at home.
“Neither of them (Larentowicz or Nane) are noted for their aggressiveness going forward,” the head coach said. “But I think, at home, adding someone in there who can maybe make the chance to get in the penalty box more, offer Jeff the opportunity to make the penalty box a bit more, and still maintain that ability out wide is going to be the key.”
Smith may also push Sanna Nyassi out on the flanks to allow an extra forward in the middle with Omar Cummings.
With Denver recovering from the first snowfall of the season and the advantage of altitude, the Rapids are counting on a homefield edge. Whatever the formation, the only thing left to do is show up ready to go, and hope the opportunities go their way a little more than in recent weeks.
“The idea is that we continue to push through and work hard,” Thompson told MLSsoccer.com. “I think we’ve had the opportunities to, it’s just the ability to capitalize on those opportunities. We need to be a bit sharper and better in the final third. My idea is that if you keep working hard and keep pushing and keep playing as a team, the balls will fall your way. You are going to get those little breaks.”
Added Kimura: “It all starts from that pure desire and that good mental set that everyone has in this team.”