COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – For Pablo Mastroeni, the key to winning on the road comes down to how you start.
More specifically for the Colorado Rapids head coach, it’s the opening 15 minutes that will usually make or break a road game. It's an area in which his team has not excelled in their last four road contests, with three losses and a draw in that span.
Although they have neither scored nor conceded a goal in the first 15 minutes of those games, something on the road has not quite gone to plan of late. After starting brightly with two wins and a draw in their first four road matches of the season, the Rapids have collected just one point in their last four road contests, something their head coach partially believes comes down to their play out of the gate.
“The real time to play is the first 15 minutes,” Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com this week about the keys to road success. “Both teams have tanks loaded, energy, ready to compete. It’s those moments that are critical to overwhelm your opponent with your will. So impose your will on the team. The team that does a better job of that in the opening stages get the upper hand.”
To be fair to the Rapids, most of their road contests have been close. Colorado conceded a second-half go-ahead goal to Fabian Castillo in their last road contest more than a month ago in a 3-2 loss to FC Dallas, and they very nearly equalized several times late in a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake in their second-to-last road match back on May 17.
With the exception of a 4-1 loss at Seattle in late April, the Rapids have not been uncompetitive on the road. But they have not been collecting the results they want, either.
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Colorado will try and change that on Saturday when they battle the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park (7 pm ET, MLS Live). Midfielder Jose Mari will miss Saturday’s match with a sprained ankle, but otherwise the Rapids are expected to be fully fit.
“Those last two [road] games we were well in and probably should’ve gotten more out of,” Rapids captain and defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com this week. “But on the road, it’s about grinding it out. It’s about getting off to a good start, it’s about staying organized defensively, taking your chances when you have them. But it’s just about confidence, going in and believing and not just getting one on the road, but [getting] all three points.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.