Rapids look to correct set-piece troubles

Colorado eyes revenge, consistency in Open Cup game vs. KC

DENVER — The good news is that the Colorado Rapids have yet to concede a goal in open play during the fledgling MLS 2010 season. The bad news is that all three goals conceded so far have therefore been on set pieces.

Granted, one was on a penalty kick, which you can’t exactly defend against, although defender Marvell Wynne may have made an overly aggressive first challenge as he was then forced to chase Patrick Nyarko, leading to the penalty. That aside, the two others have been on a corner against Chicago, where Collins John had a relatively easy header, and on the match-winning free kick against Kansas City last weekend scored by Kei Kamara.

“In the end, it’s been from a dead ball again,” head coach Gary Smith said after the Wizards game. “I’m not sure what we are going to do about that.”

Smith was anxious not to point the finger at any one player as goalkeeper, Matt Pickens, came in from some criticism for being caught in no man’s land as the ball looped over him and into the net.

“There were a couple of things,” Smith said. “Colin Clark gives away a cheap free kick, Matt starts and gets caught and Kamara gets a faint head on it. All these little percentages end up.”

The Rapids have a chance to exact some revenge for Saturday’s first defeat of the season, and work further on how to defend better against such set pieces, when they play the same opposition Tuesday night in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match. Click here for more on the Open Cup game.

As expected, Pablo Mastroeni, Colin Clark and Conor Casey have returned to Denver, as has Julien Baudet who was sent off Saturday and can play no part in the Toronto game next weekend. Smith has brought in Mike Holody for some game time in central defense Tuesday night, as well as front men Claudio López and rookie Andre Akpan.

The signing of Quincy Amarikawa last week appears to have put Akpan down the pecking order a little. Amarikawa did get 10 minutes or so at the end of Saturday’s game. Both he and Akpan will therefore be eager to impress Tuesday night as the coaching staff assesses its options as to who best will back up Casey and Omar Cummings.

López, the former Argentine international, has now had all his visa issues settled and looks to play some role in the attack formation in the Open Cup game.

The match at the University of Missouri-Kansas City kicks off at 8:30 p.m. MT.