The Colorado Rapids face a 1-0 aggregate deficit following Leg 1 of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 series against Guatemala's Comunicaciones FC, leaving head coach Robin Fraser's group with an uphill battle in Leg 2 Wednesday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (8:15 pm ET | FS2, TUDN).
But the climb isn't the only adversity the Rapids must contend with come kickoff. The forecast in Commerce City, Colo., is projecting frigid temperatures (low-teens Fahrenheit) and potentially even snowfall, adding another variable to their quest for a comeback result.
"This is certainly not any kind of football weather anyone wants to be a part of," Fraser said during his pre-match media availability on Tuesday. "But it is what it is and we have to deal with the conditions just like they'll have to deal with the conditions. At the end of the day we need a result, as do they. So regardless of the weather conditions, both teams will have to deal with it, both teams will have to adapt and we'll have to figure out ways to be effective within it."
From the players' perspective, Rapids defender Keegan Rosenberry believes that competing in unforgiving temperatures can actually work in Colorado's favor compared to their Central American counterparts.
"Nothing out of the ordinary. It's not going to be pleasant for either team," Rosenberry said. "It might pose a little bit of an advantage for us, but we're also not used to this extreme of conditions. But I think we're excited for the challenge and we're excited about the advantage it can pose for us. Obviously, snow being on the pitch might not be ideal or good for either team, but I think our guys are ready to brave the cold and I think we were relatively sharp today in training."
The Rapids nearly reached Leg 2 with the series still deadlocked at 0-0, only to concede in the 89th minute when Comunicaciones substitute Karel Espino's 35-yard shot found the back of the net after a deflection.
Aside from the goal, Fraser said he felt his team's execution simply wasn't up to par, particularly in the attack, which has been a key emphasis on the training ground in recent days.
"Overall I just didn't think we played very well," Fraser said. "I didn't think very many guys were sharp on the night and as a result our decision-making wasn't as good as it normally is and as a result our execution wasn't as good as it normally is. I think everyone agrees with that. It's kind of the starting point for getting ready for this game is that everyone knows they need to be a little bit sharper."
The Rapids became known for their resilient nature during a 2021 season where they earned the Western Conference's No. 1 seed for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. They also have a reputation as one of the more stout defensive teams in MLS, an attribute that becomes paramount in a match where maintaining a clean sheet is vital to maximizing their chances.
The winner advances to face New York City FC or Santos de Guápiles (Costa Rica) in the quarterfinal stage, which is set for March 8-17.
"I would say the response has been exactly what we would expect it to be: We're disappointed obviously to have come out of Guatemala with nothing and we know that obviously we need to score goals, we need to be aggressive and above all we just really need to execute well," Fraser said.
"One of the things is that this group never quits and I think they were not happy with the way they played and they knew that they could play a lot better. I think to a man there's a real resolve that we have to be better, we can be better and really nothing less than that is going to be acceptable tomorrow."