Battle vs. Wizards With Huge Playoff Implications On Tap for Saturday

DENVER (ColoradoRapids.com) - Your Rapids travel to Arrowhead Stadium this Saturday to take on the Kansas City Wizards in the final match between the two sides this season. Kickoff is at 6:30pm MT on Saturday.

Colorado have a 15-17-6 all-time record against fellow MLS charter club Kansas City. The Rapids are 3-13-2 when playing in Arrowhead Stadium. In their only meeting so far this year Colorado beat the Wizards on a Clint Mathis stoppage time goal 1-0 on July 8 at Invesco Field.

Fans can listen to a live Webcast featuring Fox Soccer Channel and BBC Radio announcer Sean Wheelock live at 6:30 (MT) by going to www.kcwizards.com.

This match is very important in regards to playoff positioning for the Rapids as the Western Conference is extremely close in terms of clubs jostling for postseason positioning in the final stretch of the season; only 4 points separate 2nd and 6th place in the West.

For the full match preview of Saturday's match including projected lineups the latest injury report miscellaneous game notes broadcast information head-to-head stats and more visit the Rapids MatchUp Page by CLICKING HERE.

COLORADO RAPIDS AT KANSAS CITY WIZARDS MATCH PREVIEW
By MLSNet.com

A pair of teams currently in playoff spots - by the narrowest of margins - face off in an interconference matchup at Arrowhead Stadium. The Kansas City Wizards are still hanging on to fourth place in the Eastern Conference after their loss at Los Angeles last weekend still just a point clear of fifth-place New York though they've played two more games. The Colorado Rapids put an end to a brief three-game winless run at Real Salt Lake last weekend with a 1-0 win that pulled them back into the top four in the Western Conference now sitting in third place three points ahead of the current non-qualifiers in the division.

REFEREE: Elias Bazakos. SAR (bench): Emiliano Monje; JAR (opposite): Nate Clement; 4th: Shane Moody
MLS Career: 7 games; FC/gm: 29.3; Y/gm: 2.9; R: 2; pens: 0
MLS 2006: 3 games; FC/gm: 28.7 (avg: 28.8); Y/gm: 2.3 (avg: 3.67); R: 1 (MLS: 27); pens: 0 (MLS: 33)
Games involving Wizards: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 30.0; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 1; pens: 0
Games involving Rapids: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 26.0; Y/gm: 2.0; R: 1; pens: 0

INJURY REPORT:
KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: DF Jimmy Conrad (mandibular fracture); FW Eddie Johnson (hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Nick Garcia (groin strain); PROBABLE: MF Alex Zotinca (R hamstring strain); FW Josh Wolff (R hamstring strain); DF Jose Burciaga Jr. (hamstring strain)
COLORADO RAPIDS - PROBABLE: MF Terry Cooke (R knee); DF Mike Petke (R hip flexor); GK Matt Jordan (lower back)

SUSPENDED:
COL: Hunter Freeman (five cautions; through Sept. 10) Thiago Martins (five cautions; through Sept. 10)

WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: KC: Davy Arnaud Nick Garcia Shavar Thomas ... COL: Dan Gargan
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: KC: Jimmy Conrad Jack Jewsbury Bo Oshoniyi Scott Sealy Kerry Zavagnin Alex Zotinca ... COL: Kyle Beckerman Jovan Kirovski Clint Mathis Mike Petke

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (38 meetings): Wizards 17 wins (1 shootout) 67 goals ... Rapids 15 wins (3 shootout) 52 goals ... 6 draws
IN KANSAS CITY: (18 meetings): Wizards 13 wins (0 shootout) 42 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (1 shootout) 18 goals ... 2 draws

This is the second of two meetings between the teams the only one set for Arrowhead Stadium this season. The Rapids won the first encounter this year on July 8 at Invesco Field off a stoppage time goal by Clint Mathis.

A year ago the teams met twice with each side winning on their home ground. Since the 2000 season the visiting team has come away with a victory just twice (Sept. 14 2002 a Colorado 2-1 win in Kansas City and June 9 2004 a K.C. 1-0 win in Denver) over a span of 21 matches.

The teams met three times in the MLS Cup Playoffs - in 1997 2000 2003 - while both were in the Western Conference with the Wizards advancing two out of the three occasions. If they continue the trend of meeting in the postseason every three years this year it will have to be at MLS Cup 2006.

COACHES RECORDS:
Brian Bliss v COL: first game ...
Fernando Clavijo vs. KC: P7 W3 L4 D0

2006 HEAD TO HEAD (MLS)
7/8: COL 1 KC 0 (Mathis 90)

In the first meeting in Denver on July 8 the Rapids left it late but finally followed a win with a win in a 1-0 victory against the Wizards.

Just when it looked as if the game would dwindle to a scoreless draw the Rapids struck in the first minute of stoppage time. Nicolas Hernandez knocked the ball into space for Thiago Martins. He got in behind the Kansas City backline cut back to slip away from his defender and sent a rolling pass through the six-yard box where Mathis came in at the far side to knock it into the goal and provide the game-winner.

Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Hunter Freeman (Dan Gargan 46) Aitor Karanka Mike Petke Eric Denton - Terry Cooke Kyle Beckerman Pablo Mastroeni Dedi Ben-Dayan (Clint Mathis 76) - Nicolas Hernandez Jovan Kirovski (Thiago Martins 57). [Substitutes Not Used: Bouna Coundoul Jacob Peterson Daniel Wasson Chris Wingert]

Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Matt Groenwald (Davy Arnaud 46) Jimmy Conrad Nick Garcia Tyson Wahl - Jack Jewsbury (Shavar Thomas 85) Kerry Zavagnin Alex Zotinca Lance Watson - Eddie Johnson (Scott Sealy 73) Josh Wolff. [Substitutes Not Used: Will Hesmer Yura Movsisyan Ryan Pore Ryan Raybould]

KANSAS CITY WIZARDS
The Kansas City Wizards weren't able to come away with a victory in their first match after the sale of the club was completed to Kansas City-based OnGoal LLC falling 2-1 to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday evening at The Home Depot Center. The Wizards are still hanging on to fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points from 27 matches a point behind the New England Revolution and a point ahead of the New York Red Bulls though they've played two more games than each.

LAST MATCH
-Both teams were desperately looking for the three points to ensure they kept pace in their respective conference races. The Galaxy had lost just twice since the start of July yet still found themselves in last place in the West. The Wizards had won just twice since mid-June yet still found themselves in the fourth and final playoff spot in the East though second and fifth were separated by just four points.
-A tame first half burst into life right after the break. Landon Donovan sent Cobi Jones free on the right and he whipped in a rolling cross that Chris Albright just missed getting onto the end of. But Alan Gordon came in behind and stabbed the ball sliding in just ahead of a Wizards defender (47).
-But just five minutes later the Wizards pulled level. Jose Burciaga Jr. served in a corner from the left and Shavar Thomas rose up to nod home a clear header off the underside of the bar and just over the line from the heart of the six-yard box his first goal in more than two seasons.
-Yet the Galaxy pulled ahead just four minutes later again through Gordon. Donovan swerved in a free kick from the left flank and Gordon got up to head home from the spot his third goal in as many games all his first since coming to MLS last season.
-The Wizards nearly got another late equalizer when Davy Arnaud hit a stunning full side volley from all of 30 yards but the ball crashed off the face of the bar and away.
-Wizards interim head coach Brian Bliss made three changes to the team that came back to snatch a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls at midweek at Arrowhead Stadium. Tyson Wahl came into central defense in place of the injured Nick Garcia while Alex Zotinca started at right back in place of Matt Groenwald. Josh Wolff also made his first start in six matches coming into the team in place of the injured Dave van den Bergh.
-Here's Bliss's team (4-2-1-3): Bo Oshoniyi - Alex Zotinca (Will John 87) Shavar Thomas Tyson Wahl Jose Burciaga Jr. - Jack Jewsbury Sasha Victorine - Davy Arnaud - Scott Sealy (Yura Movsisyan 72) Eddie Johnson (Ryan Pore 17) Josh Wolff. [Substitutes Not Used: Will Hesmer Brian Roberts Stephen Shirley Kerry Zavagnin]
-"We came out here and I thought we played well. I told the guys that was one our best games to date ... but unfortunately it's a fine line between winning tying and losing Bliss said. "We did everything we could but get that second goal."

TEAM NEWS
-With the playoffs well within reach entering the match now K.C. faces a tough task. With just five games remaining the Wizards must gain points while hoping New York New England and Chicago don't.
-"We need to get points whenever we can get points especially when teams ahead of you lose Victorine said. "That's the way the league is right now. Every game is tight and every game is a tough game. You've got to get points when you can get them and we wanted to come out here with at least a point and we didn't."
-Compounding the loss was forward Eddie Johnson's injury. Johnson went out early in the game with a hamstring injury that Bliss said was not related to Johnson's hip flexor from a week ago.
-"It's just unfortunate that he went out there and tweaked it Bliss said. "Now we've got to make do without him for ... at least 7-10 days. It would be a miraculous thing if he were to play (this) week against Colorado."
-It was the first game for the Wizards since Kansas City-based OnGoal LLC completed the purchase of the club from original investor/operator Lamar Hunt squashing rumors about the a possible move out of Kansas City. That announcement lifted a large weight off the shoulders of the Wizards collective organization - next is securing a spot in the playoffs.
-"Everybody is still high and positive about the fact that the team got sold and an ownership group in Kansas City bought it Wizards midfielder Sasha Victorine said. "We put out the effort to get a result but unfortunately we gave up two opportunities and they scored on them. ... We're going to carry the positive atmosphere that we've got right now and the positive energy the ownership group is bringing. That's what we've got to take the next few games to keep pushing and get into the playoffs."

COLORADO RAPIDS
The Colorado Rapids put an end to a three-game winless run with a 1-0 victory against bitter rivals Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Rapids moved into third place in the Western Conference with the win now with 35 points from 25 matches just a point behind second-place Houston Dynamo a point ahead of fourth place Chivas USA and three ahead of the fifth-place tie between RSL and L.A. Galaxy.

LAST MATCH
-The Rocky Mountain Cup was to be decided after the teams had evenly split their first three league meetings each winning once in Denver while the first meeting in Utah ended in a draw.
-The Rapids had also dumped Real out of the U.S. Open Cup in the fourth round and a victory would give the winner the leg up for the time being in the battle for a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
-The rivalry has grown more heated as the year has gone on and three minutes into the second half Colorado took the lead. Dan Gargan swung in a cross from the right flank and Nicolas Hernandez rose up to head home just under the crossbar for the game's only goal.
-After the victory and before presentation of the cup -- awarded by the supporters' clubs of the two teams -- there were wild celebrations by the Rapids players which drew a stiff rebuke from Real investor/operator Dave Checketts who confronted Colorado's Pablo Mastroeni on the field in the midst of the histrionics.
-Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo made four changes to the team that fell 2-0 to FC Dallas the Wednesday before at home. Pablo Mastroeni returned from suspension coming into central defense in place of the injured Mike Petke while Hunter Freeman replaced the suspended Eric Denton. Kyle Beckerman also came back from suspension in place of Daniel Wasson while Colin Clark made his first career MLS start as Jovan Kirovski returned to the substitutes' bench.
-Here's Clavijo's team (4-3-1-2): Joe Cannon - Dan Gargan Aitor Karanka Pablo Mastroeni Hunter Freeman - Jacob Peterson (Alain Nkong 65) Kyle Beckerman Colin Clark (Daniel Wasson 77) - Clint Mathis (Chris Wingert 82) - Nicolas Hernandez Thiago Martins. [Substitutes Not Used: Bouna Coundoul Eric Denton Jovan Kirovski Fabrice Noel]
-"It felt great for two things -- we got ahead of them in the conference and we got to take the [Rocky Mountain] Cup with us back home said Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

TEAM NEWS
-After the game most attention was on the postgame celebration by the Rapids and the confrontation between Checketts and Mastroeni.
-"I think these fans are really good said Cannon. "They're really into the match and they make the atmosphere so great. Coming here and trying to create this rivalry is something that is not only good for the two teams but it's good for the league in general. I think this rivalry is going to get a lot bigger with time."
-Added Thiago Martins: "Salt Lake is our rival. It's a healthy rivalry. It's good for the fans to get into the game and we need more of that. We need more of that in MLS and soccer in the U.S. -- the spirit of rivals. It would bring more people into the stands."
-Yet Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo preached perspective. "We have to be realistic it's just another game he said. "Seven more games to go I don't expect it to get any easier than it was tonight. Any time you get three points like this and distance yourself from someone else fighting for a playoff spot it's good."
-Even though the Rapids are currently sitting in a playoff spot Martins knows the race in the Western Conference is far from over. "Our West Conference right now everybody is really tight said Martins. "Every game means a lot. It doesn't matter what happens in the past it matters what happens now on. Salt Lake loses 6-0 to New York and came back and won 1-0 to L.A. and everything was fine. They're already back in the table."
-Said Cannon: "I'm hoping for this team that it will be a nice turning point and at least give us something to build on for the final seven games.