Rapids head coach Gary Smith has some options with his formation against the Crew on Thursday night.
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Rapids notes: Precautionary rest

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The Colorado Rapids players trained at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Tuesday for the second of three hard days of preparation before flying to Ohio on Thursday for this weekend’s playoff game against the Columbus Crew (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, TeleFutura).

However, a number of first-team players were either absent from practice or left a little early on Tuesday.

Goalkeeper Matt Pickens was sidelined with groin problems, spending the practice talking at length with Rapids technical director Paul Bravo. Conor Casey was nowhere to be seen because of hip soreness. Finally, Kosuke Kimura was upended by Drew Moor in practice and hobbled away for some ice treatment.

Jamie Smith, absent from last week’s home game against Columbus with a hamstring injury, was practicing hard.

“Jamie has moved along very nicely,” head coach Gary Smith said. “I would think he will be in the reckoning and made available for selection. I would think we will be fully healthy and fit for Saturday’s game.”

Coach Smith was “almost certain” Casey would be practicing Wednesday, and said that resting players from practice was purely precautionary.

Jamie Smith’s expertise on set pieces was definitely missed by the Rapids in last week’s playoff game and the coach said he was very hopeful the Scotsman will be ready this weekend.

The extra rest in between last Thursday’s first leg and this Saturday’s game gives that crucial bunch a few more days of recovery, coach Smith added.

Pay the Penalty

Some Rapids players practiced penalty kicks on Tuesday in anticipation of such a needed scenario on Saturday. Smith – who hasn’t yet picked a definitive order if the game does come down to penalties – is fining players for indecisiveness. Players were forced to pick a side of the goal and shoot on it – changing their minds mid-run-up was not allowed.

“I really hope it doesn’t go [to penalties], but we have to prepare for everything,” coach Smith said.

And how much is the coach fining his players?

“Not a lot. Just enough for my Starbucks in the morning.”

Weather Woes

Tuesday produced a perfect fall morning: a cloudless sky, plenty of sun, temperatures in the 60s and snow-capped mountains. Columbus will be a very different environment. Smith doesn’t care that it’s an afternoon game.

“Not at this time of year,” he said. “Sounds like the weather’s a little more inclement. I think it will be a lovely English afternoon. Drizzle, cold; it will inspire everybody to be that much sharper and passionate about their play.”

The weather will certainly have an English feel when the Rapids arrive in Columbus. Forecasts predict rain and temperatures in the high 40s on Thursday, but Saturday is expected to be dry.

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