NEW YORK — When you’re a champion it comes with the territory: getting fitted by the same tailor who dresses the President of the United States of America.
It happened on Tuesday afternoon when the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids arrived at their team hotel in New Jersey ahead of Wednesday night’s showdown against the New York Red Bulls (8 pm ET, Watch Online).
Players were measured for new, custom-made suits which will be prepared ahead of the annual visit by MLS Cup winners with US President Barack Obama later this year. It was a welcome break in the routine for the Rapids, who are making their seventh road swing of the season and their third to the east coast since May 7.
“That’s sure something we don’t do on every road trip,” Colorado defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com. “Sometimes it’s nice to do something like that. It gets our minds off of soccer.”
You can’t blame Moor and the Rapids for seeking a distraction. After starting the season with three straight victories, the club has one win in their last eight matches including just four goals scored during that span. Injuries, lineup changes and a congested schedule full of road matches have already taken a toll on Colorado barely a third into the new season.
“Yeah, maybe a little bit to be honest,” Moor said of the wear factor. “But now it’s the mental side of the game. Can we get ourselves up for the game and can we prepare ourselves mentally? You’re going to find yourself physically worn down over the course of the season and then it becomes a battle upstairs.”
Moor says that the Rapids coaching staff is going out of its way to ensure that the players remain fresh in a season that will also see them involved in six matches in Group B of the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League. It’s meant shorter and lighter training sessions for the players of late.
“We’ve been on the East Coast three times and that will take it out of you,” Moor said. “You have to tweak the routine a little to keep things fresh and to try to stay hungry. It’s more the mental side of the game at this point than the physical side. You know you're going to be tired early in games. Can you keep yourself into it mentally?”
That’s not going to be a crutch for Colorado as they take on one of their main challengers in the Red Bulls, who are focused on claiming the championship mantle from the Rapids.
Moor says the Rapids are gunning for three points at Red Bull Arena, pointing out the fact that his team has been solid on the road thus far in league play, registering a 2-2-2 record.
“Can we set the tone early and take the game to them and come in here and steal a win?” Moor said. “We’re not coming in here to absorb pressure and squeak out with a 0-0 tie. That’s not what our mentality is.
“We’re a confident group in every single game. Other than the match in Dallas, we’ve been in every game — not just games won and drawn, but also the ones lost. And that confidence we carry is a powerful thing.”