VANCOUVER, B.C. — For Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon, traveling to Colorado on Saturday (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online) won't just be a chance to face the defending MLS Cup champs. It's also a trip down memory lane.
The veteran netminder enjoyed four successful seasons in a Rapids kit, in which he picked up his second MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2004 and earned a nomination for Major League Soccer’s MVP Award that same year.
“We were a team that couldn’t score many goals, but we had a grit about us,” Cannon recalled to MLSsoccer.com at training on Thursday. “The guys on our back line — Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Matt Crawford and Antonio de la Torre, guys that, except for Nat, aren’t in the league anymore — they were a good group. Our strength was defending. Guys that could close down and make it difficult for the other team. It made my job a lot easier when I was there.”
As for this season’s edition of the Rapids, Cannon is well aware that it's their attacking players that form their current strength, and playing at a higher elevation could be a challenge for his side.
“The altitude is an issue at times for teams that come in,” Cannon said. “It’s a wide field, so there will be a lot open play. Hopefully our line won’t be too high. They have a guy, Omar Cummings, who’s very good, gets behind you, and Conor Casey, who holds the ball up well. They work very well together. In midfield, watch for Jeff Larentowicz taking shots from distance; he’s got a really good shot. “
Whitecaps head coach Tom Soehn is focusing on the Rapids’ offensive threat as well, and rightfully so — Casey has scored five goals in his last six games.
"You've got Casey, who's a big target guy who works hard,” Soehn said. “You've also got Cummings, who can open up the back and get in behind, so you'll always have to account for those two and they play off each other well.”
Ultimately, Cannon says his current side should use this game as a learning experience, and should try to incorporate some of the Rapids qualities into their own game.
“They’re a dangerous team all-around,” Cannon explained. “Very blue-collar, a team we should look at and try and emulate ourselves. No stars, just a good group of guys. They’re coming off a cup last year, and here in Vancouver, we’d like to do the same.”