COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – In each of the last two seasons, the Columbus Crew have seen their MLS Cup Playoffs runs come to an end at the hands of the Colorado Rapids. And the Rapids are ready to keep their dominance of the Crew going Saturday afternoon in their season opener (6 pm ET; MLS Live) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“Maybe we’re in their heads a little bit as we beat them here a few times the last couple years,” Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens told MLSsoccer.com. “Hopefully that’s in their head so when they come here they’re already a notch down.”
Last year, the Crew exited the postseason after a 1-0 one-and-done loss to the Rapids, Omar Cummings notching the goal just before halftime. The year before, it was a penalty kick shootout that helped Colorado eliminate Columbus en route to their first-ever MLS Cup title.
The Rapids, however, will look completely different on Saturday than they did last October. This time around, new head coach Oscar Pareja will take the field for his first game in charge and will be installing a new 4-3-3, attack-oriented approach. A 1-0 scoreline seems low on the list of probabilities.
“I’m anxious, nervous, committed [and] positive,” Pareja said of his emotions heading into the opener. “[But] I feel proud about the team that we have.”
Expect the Rapids to start Cummings as the point man in the Rapids’ three-striker look, with Tony Cascio (left) and Brian Mullan (right) flanking the Jamaican international, while Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni and newcomer Jaime Castrillón will form the heart of an experienced midfield. Luis Zapata, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne and Kosuke Kimura should form a back four in front of Pickens.
Even with the wealth of experience in the Rapids' projected starting lineup, the first thing on Pareja's list isn't necessarily a win. He's taking the long view.
“Discipline, compromise with the idea that we have, and being convinced [with the new 4-3-3 formation],” Pareja explained.
In Colorado, the new era has arrived.