The Colorado Rapids’ track record in US Open Cup play, a packed schedule and bombardment of injuries are sure to make Tuesday night’s third-round USOC clash between the Rapids and the Tampa Bay Rowdies a tricky one for the MLS side.
The Rapids haven’t advanced to the Open Cup proper since 2007, having struggled in the tournament’s play-in stages. Part of it is the travel involved, but part is the simple fact that Colorado have consistently fielded teams with second-stringers.
That is likely to change on Tuesday.
The Rapids are expected to field a team mostly comprised of starters in Florida, though backup keeper Steward Ceus is expected to get his first action of the season as regular starter Matt Pickens did not travel. Midfielder Jeff Larentowicz also did not travel, but 12 of the 14 players who participated in Saturday night’s 3-2 win over Montreal are heading to Tampa Bay, and they aren’t overlooking their second-division opponents.
“It’s always tough to go to an NASL place and play,” defender Drew Moor told ColoradoRapids.com Saturday night. “It’s a big game for them; it’s a big game for their fans and I believe Tampa’s a pretty good team.”
The Rowdies are currently fourth in the eight-team NASL, with 12 points in their opening nine matches. They’re an even 3-3-3, though they have scored just 10 goals in their nine matches to date.
However, Tampa Bay will be aided by the Rapids’ quick turnaround, coming on the heels of their stunning win over the Impact at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Colorado traveled to central Florida mere hours after the victory, and only 71 hours will separate the start of Saturday’s game and kickoff from Al Lang Stadium (7:30 pm ET).
“It’s tough, but it’s why we’re professionals, it’s why we’re here and it’s why we have a deep squad,” Moor said of his injury-riddled team, who will once again be without the services of sidelined starters Omar Cummings, Conor Casey, Marvell Wynne, Brian Mullan and Pablo Mastroeni.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.