New York hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for Gary Smith and his Colorado Rapids in recent times.
Last year, the Rapids twice visited Red Bull Arena – once in league play and another in USOC action – and both times walked out with the short end of the stick.
Thus, a visit to Red Bull Arena on Wednesday, just three days after a disappointing goalless draw against Toronto at home, is probably the last thing Colorado want.
“[The game at New York] will be an extremely tough challenge,” head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday evening.
On Monday, just a day after they had trudged off the field at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Rapids were on a four-hour flight to the East Coast. Battered and bruised, the midweek tilt will be a stiff challenge for the defending MLS Cup champions.
Injuries continue to plague the team; midfielder Jamie Smith is the latest player to go down and did not make the trip after limping off the field at halftime Sunday with a tight calf muscle. The squad, minus some key players, will have to rely on a lot of self-belief.
“The last couple of outcomes here were pretty difficult and quite barren, but I think we are a different side now,” Gary Smith explained. “I think we are a very tenacious group now, and I believe that whoever plays tomorrow will give a very decent account of themselves.”
As well as Jamie Smith, the Rapids will again be without key forwards Omar Cummings (sprained ankle) and Caleb Folan (groin). Both could make a bench appearance this coming weekend against Sporting Kansas City, though Folan is further along with rehab than Cummings. Therefore, the Rapids look set to rely on a combination of Conor Casey, Quincy Amarikwa, Andre Akpan and even midfielder Sanna Nyassi to fill the gaps upfront.
Gary Smith said Nyassi could play a key role in Wednesday’s game, whether it be in midfield or up top.
“This situation could give more playing time to guys like Sanna,” he said. “His play has sometimes been a little erratic, but he has also been very bright and he has created some nice openings.”
With so many games in such a short space of time, and with so many injuries, Gary Smith said he will wait until the morning to see who has the freshest legs, but it seems more than likely that he won’t play as aggressive a formation as he did at the weekend, when Kosuke Kimura was pushed into midfield and Marvell Wynne played at right back.
“That combination gave us a bit of energy down the side, but it’s slightly different here [against New York],” he said. “I want to be as positive as possible while understanding the reality of what we face.”