COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – With Isidro Metapán on the end of a 6-0 thrashing last week at Santos Laguna, the Colorado Rapids can do themselves a huge favor Wednesday night by stealing an unlikely victory on the road (10 pm ET, concacaf.com, delayed at 12:30 am ET on FOX Soccer).
Three points would mean being in control of their own destiny against Santos Laguna in Mexico for the last game of the CCL group stage on Oct. 19, and Santos may be tempted to put out a reserve lineup for that game if they can clinch qualification against Real España this week. The Rapids are currently bottom of Group B with four points from four games, while Isidro Metapán lie second with six points from four games.
But winning Wednesday is a tough ask given the extensive travel, unfamiliar facilities, a hostile crowd and opponents who have already pulled off an unlikely 2-0 victory over group leaders Santos at home.
“I heard they are undefeated on that field because it’s a cow pasture," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who is not on the 17-man travel roster, told MLSsoccer.com. "And God knows what travel arrangements there will be. But who knows, if we can get a win down there, we are not out of it yet."
Rapids head coach Gary Smith admitted last week after the side’s 2-1 defeat by Real España that he had taken a gamble in fielding a below-strength team for the game.
Smith said he was more focused on the MLS fixture vs. San Jose this past Saturday and would be putting out a stronger XI for that match. He’s adopting the same approach for the Metapán clash, with arguably his weakest squad traveling to El Salvador while the bulk of the first team stays behind to prepare for a vital MLS game at home to FC Dallas this coming Saturday.
“Yes, maybe I have put a bit more emphasis on the domestic league, but both groups this week have a single job to do and that is their only focus,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “The squad that is going down to Metapán is very capable.”
Smith admitted that much of the controversy surrounding the 17-player group traveling to El Salvador this week is due to the fact that he himself is not traveling to Central America, leaving the reins instead to assistant coach Steve Guppy.
“If our form had been better in the league, I would have felt a lot more relaxed about it and gone myself,” he said. “My job is to bring some stimulus to offer the opportunity at the weekend to be at our best and it’s not an easy time to rejuvenate the group.”
With the Rapids picking up just their first point in their last four league games at home last weekend to San Jose, Smith faces a tight schedule to try and plant some much needed self-belief in the players that do stay behind in Colorado to prepare for the vital Dallas game.
Of the group traveling to Metapán, only Omar Cummings, Macoumba Kandji, Tyrone Marshall and Wells Thompson can be seen as regular first-team starters. Smith said these players would only appear as substitutes at most against FC Dallas.