Kenny Cooper and Carlos Ruiz will lead the Dallas attack against Colorado.
Rich Schultz/MLS/

FCD aims to avoid repeat vs. Rapids

When FC Dallas learned over the weekend their opponent in the Western Conference Semifinal Series would be none other than the Colorado Rapids -- well, as Yogi Berra would say, it's déjà vu all over again.

The Rapids have eliminated the Hoops from the postseason in each of their last two trips, in 2002 and 2005. FCD head coach Colin Clarke knows his side is ready to exorcise the Colorado playoff demon once and for all.

"I think we probably printed the tickets back in April and knew who we would be playing," Clarke said. "It makes for a good series with the history, especially last year. We've had their number this year but come playoff time none of that matters. It's going to be two games and we feel very confident that we will get a result."

Still fresh in the Hoops' psyche is their surprising loss to the Rapids in last year's West semifinals. "They remember," Clarke said. "They remember what happened and weren't very happy about it. It will definitely add an extra edge to the series. You never get over those. It's always in your mind. We felt we were the better team last year and deserved to get through, but it didn't happen. We've got to put that right. The good thing is that we have got an opportunity to put it right."

A year ago, the teams played to a scoreless draw in Denver. Then in the second leg, after Colorado went a man down early in the second half, the Rapids still were able to gain a 2-2 draw -- including coming back with an extra-time equalizer -- before winning in the lottery of a penalty kick shootout.

Hoops right back Bobby Rhine, who also played in FCD's playoff loss to the Rapids in 2002, knows his side will be motivated to remove the Colorado money off their backs.

"We're going to be highly motivated knowing that they knocked us out the last two times we were in the playoffs," Rhine said. "Also knowing that we had a poor performance over the weekend (in a 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday) will make us a motivated team."

FCD was an impressive 3-0-1 this season against the Rapids. The two squads tied 2-2 on April 15 after the Hoops stormed to a quick 2-0 edge, but Colorado leveled the match with two tallies just before the break.

On June 24 in Frisco, the Hoops won 1-0, getting their lone goal from Kenny Cooper. FCD exploded for a 4-1 win against Colorado on July 29 to close out the first half of the regular season. Left-sided midfielder Ramon Nunez had two goals in that game. Then, on Aug. 30 in Denver, they blanked the Rapids 2-0.

But as good as his team did this year against Colorado, Clarke knows all that is meaningless come playoff time.

"There are no favorites at this stage of the season," he said. "Come playoff time, it's a new game and anything can happen. We saw that last year. It will take any little bounce of the ball to make the difference."

The Hoops head into Saturday's first leg match in the Mile High City with a 2-4-1 mark in their last seven games to close out the regular season. They've lost their three games on the road.

Yet Clarke knows that this year's FCD squad is much better than the 2005 version that fell to the Rapids.

"I think they are," he said. "We've matured and are a year older. They had that heartbreak from last year and came through it. We won our division and home-field advantage this year. We've had a lot of positives in this season. Our season will be defined in the next four games."

Rhine called Colorado's upset win against FCD last fall an anomaly.

"I think last year was really kind of a fluke," he said. "I thought we played more than well enough to win and Joe Cannon had a good game. They were lucky enough to force it into penalty kicks and had the hot hand."

Clarke is just happy to finally be in the postseason.

"This is the enjoyable part of the year," he admitted. "I know there are four teams who would love to be where we are today. It's a great and exciting time of the year. Everybody wants to be in the postseason and we feel good about our chances."

Steve Hunt is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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