Don't Miss Opening Night This Saturday!

DENVER (ColoradoRapids.com) - Soccer fans of the Centennial State rejoice! The start of the 2006 Major League Soccer season in Colorado is officially here!

Your Colorado Rapids kick off their final season at Invesco Field this Saturday night April 8 when they host the Columbus Crew. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm and fans will also be treated to a special giveaway; the first 5000 fans into the stadium will receive a free Rapids stadium blanket courtesy of Adam's Mark the Hotel of Denver!

For the full Colorado Rapids 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.

Tickets are still available for the Rapids' Opening Night but selling quickly! Certain sections are sold out so if you haven't already gotten your game tickets for this match you can do so online by CLICKING HERE or by calling the Rapids at (303) 825-GOAL.

MLSNET.COM COLORADO RAPIDS vs COLUMBUS CREW MATCH PREVIEW
INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH Denver CO
7 p.m. MT
April 8 2006 (WEEK 2) MLS Game #11
TV: MLS Direct Kick Package

Two teams who suffered heavy defeats on the road in their season openers come together in the Mile High City. The Columbus Crew haven't defeated the Colorado Rapids in Denver since the 1999 season and are winless in their last six meetings on Colorado's home ground.

REFEREE: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Emiliano Monje; JAR (opposite): Paul Scott; 4th: Colin Tait
MLS Career: 60 games; FC/gm: 31.0; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 19; pens: 18
Games involving Rapids: P8 W4 L3 T1; FC/gm: 29.5; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 3; pens: 4
Games involving Crew: P11 W5 L3 T3; FC/gm: 31.8; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 3; pens: 3

INJURY REPORT:
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: Colin Clark (R knee sprain); GK Matt Jordan (lower back); DOUBTFUL: MF Dedi Ben-Dayan (L hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: MF Clint Mathis (right knee); DF Matt Crawford (left hamstring) ...
COLUMBUS CREW - OUT: MF Duncan Oughton (R knee) GK Jonny Walker (lower back pain) DF Jed Zayner (L knee); MF Sebastian Rozental (specialized fitness training); QUESTIONABLE: GK Andy Gruenebaum (R ankle) DF Marcos Gonzalez (R hip pointer); PROBABLE: DF Frankie Hejduk (L hamstring strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: COL: MID Pablo Mastroeni (through April 9)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (23 meetings): Rapids 13 wins (2 shootout) 37 goals ... Crew 5 wins (1 shootout) 28 goals ... 5 draws
IN DENVER: (11 meetings): Rapids 7 wins (1 shootout) 14 goals ... Crew 1 win (0 shootout) 9 goals ... 3 draws

This is the first of two meetings between the clubs this season the only one in Denver. Their league meeting in Columbus is set for a little more than a month from now May 13 at Crew Stadium.
LAST YEAR'S RESULTS (In League Action):
4/23: COL 2 CLB 0 (Mastroeni 2 Gonzalez 57)
6/11: CLB 1 COL 0 (Glen 67)

The teams split their season series last year each posting a shutout on their home ground. The Crew victory in the second meeting snapped a five-game winless run against the Rapids their last previous victory coming May 10 2003 (0-3-2). The Crew's only win in Denver came on July 4 1999 a 3-0 Columbus victory. Since then the Rapids have won three of the six meetings in the Mile High City with three draws.

COACHES' RECORDS:
Fernando Clavijo vs. CLB: P9 W4 L4 D1 ...
Sigi Schmid v COL: P23 W11 L8 D4

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids opened their 2006 season with a 5-2 loss at the hands of Houston Dynamo in that club's first-ever match Sunday evening at Robertson Stadium. The Rapids along with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake sit at the foot of the Western Conference without a point from their opening match.

Brian Ching made sure the inaugural game for Dynamo was one the new team's fans wouldn't soon forget. He scored four goals - one shy of the league record - to lead Dynamo to victory in their first-ever match. He had a hat trick by halftime as Dynamo began in rollicking fashion before a crowd of better than 25000 in Houston.

He put Dynamo into the lead in the 13th minute getting the slightest of touches on a Wade Barrett effort to deflect it past Joe Cannon. But a tremendous long-range blast from Kyle Beckerman from all of 30 yards barely a minute later (15) drew Colorado level.

Then Ching scored twice before the break with nearly identical goals. Twice De Rosario set Brian Mullan free on the right flank and twice the winger put in pinpoint crosses each time Ching coming in to powerfully head home (36 44).

Jovan Kirovski brought the Rapids back to within one with a spectacular free kick that sailed over the Houston wall in the 53rd minute but Ching headed home a De Rosario corner kick in the 72nd minute to restore the two-goal margin. Alejandro Moreno then provided the finishing touch in stoppage time with a full bicycle kick that ripped into the back of the net.

Here's Fernando Clavijo's team (4-3-1-2): Joe Cannon - Chris Wingert Pablo Mastroeni Mike Petke Eric Denton -Terry Cooke Kyle Beckerman Dedi Ben Dayan (Hunter Freeman 35) - Clint Mathis (Fabrice Noel 16) - Jovan Kirovski Nicolas Hernandez (Cornell Glen 77). (Substitutes Not Used: Bouna Coundoul Matt Crawford Dan Gargan Jacob Peterson)

"I think my boys fought very hard Clavijo said. "But it was the first game and everybody was not in top shape. We've definitely got to get that worked out. But that wasn't the problem. Today the better team won."

TEAM NEWS

-Clavijo was forced in a major reshuffle after barely a half-hour losing both Mathis and Ben Dayan from his starting midfield. He brought on out-and-out forward Fabrice Noel with Jovan Kirovski moving into midfield and Hunter Freeman came on in the back as Clavijo tried to go to three in the back.
- "That changed the complexion of the game for us Clavijo said. "When you play the entire preseason with the same lineup then you lose those players - it affects you mentally physically and tactically. We felt it."
-The Rapids are still winless in club history to open a season having lost nine and tied twice in their 11 season openers.
-"I don't think they surprised us with anything Cannon said to the Denver Post. "If anything we surprised ourselves by playing so badly. But I'll take full responsibility. They pay me a lot of money to keep the ball out of the net and when it comes down to it I didn't do it."
-On Monday Clavijo said a magnetic resonance imaging scan revealed no ligament or meniscus damage to Mathis only a pinch to the calf muscle where it connects to the knee. Clavijo said Mathis could play Saturday against the Crew.
-But Clavijo said another key absence for the weekend's match - captain Pablo Mastroeni - deserved his sanction. The U.S. international was sent off for a second bookable offense late in the match against Houston. "Sometimes we feel that Pablo is a marked man but I told him he deserved it Clavijo said to The Denver Post.
-On Sunday the Rapids announced the signing of Spanish defender Aitor Karanka. The 32-year-old Basque was signed from La Liga's Athletic Bilbao but it could several weeks before he's able to wear the Rapids colors while he awaits a work permit.
-"The main thing I can bring to the Rapids is the experience of years of playing for Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao Karanka said Saturday from Spain.

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew suffered a loss in the first match with Sigi Schmid at the helm falling 3-1 to the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Crew and the Chicago Fire sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference without a point from their opening match.

The Wizards jumped out to an early lead with goals just four minutes apart midway through the first half. First Davy Arnaud scored with a quick shot on the turn after Matt Groenwald found him with an early cross from the right (21) then Jack Jewsbury picked up the second when he banged home a rebound from near the goal line after Jon Busch parried an angled blast by Jose Burciaga Jr.

Rookie Kei Kamara pulled one of those goals for the Crew in the 33rd minute when he finished off a through ball from Gaven after the new Crew acquisition skipped through a pair of Crew players. But Eddie Johnson restored the two-goal margin and hit for his first goal with the Wizards in the 61st minute using every bit of his considerable speed to redirect Scott Sealy's cross from the right wing just inside the left post.

Here's Schmid's team (4-1-3-2): Jon Busch - Chad Marshall Marcos Gonzalez (Tim Ward 47) Rusty Pierce Ritchie Kotschau - Brandon Moss - Danny Szetela Sebastian Rozental (Jacob Thomas 72) Kyle Martino (Jason Garey 72) - Eddie Gaven Kei Kamara. (Substitutes Not Used: Knox Cameron Bill Gaudette Joel Kitamarike Jose Retiz)

"I didn't think we were two goals worse Schmid said. "I thought the first 15 minutes of the second half we owned and then we give up the third goal and that takes the wind out of the sails so to speak. The adjustments were just guys needing to work a little harder."

TEAM NEWS

-The Crew made history Saturday night as midfielder Danny Szetela and forward Eddie Gaven became the first pair of teenagers to ever start together in a lineup for the Crew. They joined a pair of rookies in Brandon Moss and Kei Kamara in the starting lineup.
-"We got some young players bloodied in a sense that it is Kei Kamara's first time out there and Brandon Moss's first time out there and it is going to take a little bit for them to get their confidence up and feel good about themselves." Schmid said.
-After just three shots on goal in the first half the Crew finished the match with 12. "I knew it was going to take time to get in a rhythm and we finally did for a while in the second half Schmid said. "Up until that third (Kansas City) goal I thought it was just going to be a matter of time."
-Kamara scored on his professional debut set up by Gaven - who had just joined the club at the end of the week leading up to the opener after arriving from New York Red Bulls.
-"We had a couple combinations for two players who haven't played together very much. He's (Eddie Gaven) a great player. He saw me making the diagonal run and he played me a great ball and I just had to finish Kamara said. "The second half was a lot better. We went forward a little more. We just have to finish our chances when we get them or they will come back and haunt us."
-Goalkeeper Jon Busch was named club captain before the match. Robin Fraser captain for much of last season retired over the offseason as sometime captain Simon Elliott is with Fulham FC in England's Premier League.
-"I just go about my business Busch said. "You're going to get the same out of me regardless if I'm wearing the armband or not. I try to lead on and on the field whether I've got the band or not."
-The Crew midfield will almost certainly have a different look this weekend as Sebastian Rozental will not be with the team because he will be undergoing a specialized conditioning program. New signing Jacob Thomas who came on as a substitute in the season opener is expected to start.
-"We talked about doing this two weeks ago coach Sigi Schmid said to the Columbus Dispatch. "It has nothing to do with the last game. Neither he nor Kyle Martino were as effective as they needed to be but our expectations for him are still very high."
-On Tuesday the Crew announced the signing of Croatian midfielder Leonard Bisaku. "He's been around a little bit Schmid said to the Dispatch. "He gives us some more depth and more experience in the middle of the midfield. He's more of a defensive midfielder but he's pretty good with the ball. He wants it and he's not uncomfortable with it."
-The 31-year-old Bisaku has played the majority of his professional career in Croatia but was most recently with Posusje in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Premier League for the 2005-2006 season. He also played the 2003 season with Seongnam Ilhwa in South Korea. His pro career in Croatia has included stints with Rijeka (2003-2004) Hrv. Dragovoljac (2001-2002) Slaven Belupo (1999-2001) Cibalia (1998-1999) and Hajduk Split (1996-1998).

The Colorado Rapids look forward to seeing all fans out at Invesco Field this Saturday night for Opening Night 2006!