Ronnie O'Brien

Hoops head to Denver to face Rapids

COLORADO RAPIDS v FC DALLAS
Sat., Oct. 22, Invesco Field at Mile High (7 p.m. MT; FSC/E; UPN-21)

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: COL 14 wins, 48 goals; DAL 17 wins, 61 goals; 5 ties
2005 HEAD-TO-HEAD: DAL 2 win, 5 goals; COL 0 wins, 2 goals; 2 ties
AT INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH:
4/9: COL 0 - DAL 0
6/25: COL 1 - DAL 3 (Gonzalez 30 - Pitchkolan 13, Rhine 85, Thompson 88)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: COL 4 wins, 7 gls; DAL 1 wins, 6 gls

REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Fabio Tovar; 4th: Alex Prus
MLS Career: 71 games; FC/gm: 32.9; Y/gm: 4.1; R: 10; pens: 31
2005: 12 games; FC/gm: 30.7; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 1; pens: 4

INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: DF Matt Crawford (R hip); PROBABLE: MF Leo Cullen (L knee sprain); GK Joe Cannon (L abdominal strain) ... FC DALLAS: OUT: GK Jeff Cassar (R shoulder separation); FW Eddie Johnson (R toe stress-related injury); MF Richard Mulrooney (R knee surgery)
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS: none

COLORADO RAPIDS TEAM NEWS

  • Pablo Mastroeni missed the last two matches of the regular season while on national team duty, but is back to full health and should be in the lineup for Saturday's first leg. "It just narrows the focus on the now and representing this club the best we can and getting a great result here on Saturday at home," Mastroeni said. ...

  • While the expected return of Carlos Ruiz to the FC Dallas camp still leaves a question in who will be in attack against Colorado, Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo said the key to stopping the Hoops lies in stopping Ronnie O'Brien. "He's the engine of that team," Clavijo said. ...

  • In the last match between the clubs, they played to a dour scoreless draw with both teams jockeying for playoff positioning. But Clavijo thinks the semifinal series will be more open. "I believe we match (up) very well because they like to play and allow (opponents) to play," Clavijo said. "That last game we played them gave us a little bit of confidence, knowing we can come with the point from there. But at the same time, we need to win." ...

  • The biggest selection question could come in attack, where recently Clavijo has opted for Jean-Philippe Peguero and Jovan Kirovski ahead of Jeff Cunningham. "At the beginning of the year, honestly, I really didn't think we could compete for the (MLS) Cup," Cunningham said. "With additions coach (Clavijo) made during the season, putting guys in the lineup, we have a good team that can make a good run. We are playing good at the moment and getting results. I think that's important." ...

  • After completely rebuilding the team, Clavijo finally seems to have found the right mix, as the Rapids are one of the hottest teams heading into the postseason, with eight wins and three ties in their last 13 games. "I think this team has more depth than in the past and I think we're able to solve more problems, in the sense that if something is not working, we can bring on other players that can bring something to the game," Joe Cannon said.

    FC DALLAS TEAM NEWS

  • The big talk around the club in the week leading up to the playoff opener has been striker Carlos Ruiz, who returned to training during the week and will travel to Colorado after missing the season finale when he did not return from his native Guatemala after their national team saw their dream of a first-ever trip to the FIFA World Cup Finals ended. Ruiz said he was devastated by the failure to reach Germany 2006.

  • "It's hard for people to understand what happened to me, how my dream was shattered," he told Al Dia in Dallas. "It hurts a lot, and it's a wound that's going to take some time to heal. It's frustrating because you know this is what you like to do. But sometimes, you need time to think things out, recharge your batteries and start all over." ...

  • The big question will come whether FC Dallas coach Colin Clarke puts Ruiz in the starting lineup, or if he used Roberto Mina, who was also away on national team duty with Ecuador. Clarke said the decision would be late in the week leading to the match. ...

  • It appears Richard Mulrooney's bid to recover from a knee injury suffered in May and return to action for the MLS Cup Playoffs fell short. Mulrooney has done some light running and limited ball work but has yet to return to full training. "I think that was an edge that we've missed, and missed a lot more than people think," Clarke said. ...

  • This is the first time FC Dallas has played in the MLS Cup Playoffs since the format was changed to the current system of two legs and aggregate goals for the conference semifinals. When the club last reached the postseason - in 2002, when coincidentally they also faced Colorado in the semis - it was with the "first-to-five points" system. "It's tricky for the team that is the higher seed," said Chris Gbandi. "You go in with the mentality that you have to win two games."