López to get his first start for Colorado in Open Cup

A fine performance vs. NY could make him a regular starter

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Claudio Lopez is feeling a bit like Nostradamus these days.

In an informal poll held amongst Colorado Rapids players on who the winner of last weekend’s UEFA Champions League match Inter Milan and Bayern Munich would be, most picked the Nerazzurri. López, however, one-upped it by getting his goal-scoring prediction spot on.

The Argentine star correctly foretold that fellow countryman, Diego Milito, would score two goals to help Inter lift the trophy and complete the treble.

Now, López’s focus is on Wednesday’s US Open Cup match between Colorado and New York at Red Bull Arena, where the forward could play a major role.

Limited to just cameo appearances since his move to Colorado earlier this season, the former two-time World Cup player may start midweek. Rapids head coach Gary Smith seemed to suggest that.

“It’s a great opportunity for him to get as many games as possible,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com during a training session just before the team left for the airport.

It’s been difficult for López to break into the Colorado starting XI. With an increasing reliance on the defensive strengths of Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz in central midfield, complemented by wide players such as Wells Thompson, Colin Clark and Mehdi Ballouchy as well as the first-choice strike partnership of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, chances for others have been limited. López, who has played just 32 minutes in two games so far, can attest to that.

But the former Valencia and Lazio star doesn’t seem to mind sitting on the bench too much. The 35-year-old veteran is extremely popular with his teammates and ready to pass on any wisdom he can.

“I am here to help the team,” he said. “I’m feeling good. There are some nice guys here and we are all working well together. I am very happy to be here.”

All players need game time, however, and “El Piojo” will be eager to make the most of his opportunity on Wednesday. A fine performance against New York, and López could be in contention for a starting spot when the Rapids return to Denver to take on the Seattle Sounders in league play on Saturday.

As for his prediction for the World Cup? No surprises there. The Albiceleste, of course.

“[Argentina] suffered in qualifying, [but] they will know what to do when it comes to the tournament,” he said.