COLUMBUS – Call it mojo, magic or just plain momentum. Every winning team in every sport has that certain special aura.
The Colorado Rapids believe it’s their turn for the stars to align and that perhaps they’re the ones with that mystical sense of destiny this year.
“It isn’t necessarily talent,” Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it’s some of the intangibles. The mesh of personalities and characters and different guys stepping up on different days. That’s what you need to be a championship team and hopefully that’s what we have this year.”
Added forward Omar Cummings, “There’s something else about this team, and we expect to go farther.”
[inline_node:322010]Whatever it is, that feeling has fueled a quiet confidence. The Rapids carry a 1-0 aggregate-goal series lead into Saturday’s match at Columbus Crew Stadium (4 p.m. ET, TeleFutura) knowing that a win or draw on the road will allow them to host San Jose in a winner-take-all contest with a ticket to MLS Cup 2010 at stake.
And while Colorado’s 4-6-5 record away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park may not look promising ahead of their playoff second leg, the Rapids’ 17 points are only two fewer than those compiled by defending champs Real Salt Lake during the 2010 regular season.
And four of Colorado’s six road defeats were close affairs, with a single goal separating the sides.
“That advantage [1-0 in the first leg] I’m sure will be quite instrumental in a game that I would think is going to very, very tight,” Rapids coach Gary Smith said.
In order to keep the game close, Colorado know they will have to focus on defending set pieces, on which Columbus have thrived all season. Smith wouldn’t say on Thursday whether he will insert 6-foot-3 center back Julien Baudet or his 6-2 counterpart Scott Palguta, who both started at Crew Stadium in the team’s last regular season visit on Aug. 21.
Another possible newcomer to the lineup that faced the Crew last week is winger Jamie Smith, who has recovered from a tight hamstring.
Although Smith revealed that goalkeeper Matt Pickens has been battling through a tight groin for some time, Pickens will remain in goal. After all, you can’t let a minor injury get in the way of disrupting destiny, right?
“Everyone looks sharp and confident,” Smith said. “They’ve shown their true caliber. It’s a talented and competitive group. We deserve to be in this postseason and we’ll do everything we possibly can to make sure it continues.”