COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Any team on any given day can beat any other team in MLS, which is why the word "parity" is often thrown around when talking about the league.
Maybe so, but Rapids head coach Gary Smith knows his team will be facing one of its sternest challenges this weekend when it faces the Columbus Crew on the road.
The Rapids, who on June 5 beat Columbus in Colorado thanks to a late Drew Moor goal, actually have a respectable overall record in Ohio, having won and lost an equal number of games there (six) with four ties.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS: COL 1, CLB 0
However, Saturday’s game will be a huge challenge for the Rapids.
Colorado’s record against the Crew hasn’t been so strong lately—the June 5 victory was the first for the Rapids over the Crew since 2006. On top of that, the Rapids have not won on the road since a 1-0 win at D.C. United on May 15.
Smith said he also considers Saturday's opponents among the league's elite.
“I think themselves, of course LA and Salt Lake—and I think you can throw Dallas into the mix—those four teams at the moment have separated themselves in terms of footballing consistency,” Smith said, adding that New York are hovering there, too, given the bodies they have recently acquired.
But the coach pointed to the Crew's winning of the Supporters’ Shield for the past two years, which included a championship in 2008, as evidence of how consistent Columbus have been in recent years.
“That Supporters Shield and having the best stats over a season anywhere else in the world is classed as a championship,” he said. “They win more often, they get points more often and they get beat less often than anyone else.”
Smith put his own team in the chasing pack with five or six other sides seeking four postseason places. Getting something out of the game Saturday would be a major achievement and a major step in the right direction in helping secure one of those playoff spots.
“It will be an ultra competitive game, a very difficult encounter, but we have proved that we are no walkovers ourselves,” he said. “Whatever team goes out this weekend will believe they can win a game of football—and that’s all it is, a game of football.”
Smith has few injury problems to worry about other than long-term absentee Colin Clark. Given he has played his most experienced lineups in tough recent games, it would seem likely he will not tinker much with it going into one of the toughest games of the season.
The game kicks off in Columbus at 7.30pm ET on Saturday.