If the Colorado Rapids want a result against the Columbus Crew in the first leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal on Thursday, they’d better regroup quickly following Saturday's disappointing draw with RSL.
Once the dust had settled on the final regular-season games this past weekend, the Rapids learned they will face the Crew in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, with kickoff scheduled for 9 p.m. ET at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids will travel to Columbus for a Saturday afternoon game on Nov. 6 for the return leg.
Driving wind and rain in the Denver area on Monday morning will do little to help the mood of the players, who were coasting to a 2-0 victory over RSL when three or four stoppage-time minutes of what head coach Gary Smith called a “farce” ended in an eventual 2-2 tie and a fourth straight Rocky Mountain Cup for RSL.
Not much was said by the Rapids players after the game, or at least not much that was fit to print. Smith, ever the professional, did give his thoughts and said he knows the mental toughness of the group will help them rebound very quickly. He said after the game he would be “absolutely gobsmacked” if his players don’t respond and put Saturday night’s closing minutes completely out of their minds.
“They are extremely angry about the way it all finished,” he said. “We all know that what happened there in those final three or four minutes. How many times does that happen in a season or five or ten seasons? Not many.”
Probably not much thought was given to the overall season for the Rapids in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s game, but the fact remains that Colorado have notched more points and conceded fewer goals at home this season than in all their history. The team also tied the LA Galaxy for second most goals scored in MLS this season. RSL finished with the most scored after tallying a last-second PK against Colorado at the weekend, but the Rapids can be proud of a good season performance heading into the playoffs.
“It’s very good progression — we are moving in the right direction,” Smith said. “The stats are lovely, but what would have been even nicer would have been to beat our dearest rivals 2-0 at home, keep a clean sheet and win the [Rocky Mountain] Cup.”
C’est la vie. The Rapids will have to get the momentum of the past few weeks back for Thursday’s crucial game. Over the past month, the defeat against D.C. United aside, the Rapids posted two draws against RSL, a tie with FC Dallas and a win against LA on the road. Not a bad performance, and plenty to take heart from as the Rapids play their first ever playoff game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park this week.
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