Saturday's Preview: A Win & We're In!

ColoradoRapids.com -If the Rapids can defeat Landon Donovan and the rest of the San Jose Earthquakes this Saturday night at Invesco Field they will qualify for the MLS Playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season.

The Rapids are currently tied with LA for 2nd place in the Western Conference with 39 points leaving them 4 points ahead of both Dallas and San Jose who are tied with 35.

If Colorado can knock off San Jose on Saturday or even tie them if Dallas loses earlier in the evening the Rapids will move out of reach and clinch a playoff berth.

The last time the Rapids faced San Jose the Rapids earned an important point on the road at Spartan Stadium on August 28th as Colorado held the Quakes to a 0-0 draw.

For more Rapids game notes as well as the latest injury report broadcast information stats records and head-to-head matchups for this match visit the Rapids' MatchUp page by clicking here: www.coloradorapids.com/TheMatch/MatchUp.asp

MATCH PREVIEW by MLSNet.com -

A vitally important match awaits the Colorado Rapids the first of two home matches to conclude the season. They are currently tied for second place in the Western Conference but have played one more match than the rest of the division - they must sit idly by next weekend while everyone else has the chance to claim valuable points.

Still it's simple - a Rapids win and a playoff place is secure. The defending MLS champion San Jose Earthquakes come into the match tied for fourth place with the Dallas Burn. Each of those 2 teams has three matches left - and they'll play in Dallas to conclude the regular season.

REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Nate Clement; 4th: Abbey Okulaja
MLS Career: 29 games; FC/gm: 32.7; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 8; pens: 10
Games involving Rapids: P4 W2 L0 T2; FC/gm: 30.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 2; pens: 0
Games involving Earthquakes: P5 W3 L2 T0; FC/gm: 31.8; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 0; pens: 1

INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: MD Darryl Powell (R knee sprain); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); DF Gary Sullivan (L lower leg); DF Joey DiGiamarino (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: FW Jean-Philippe Peguero (abdominal strain) ...
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: DF Chris Roner (R ankle surgery); QUESTIONABLE: FW Chris Brown (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MD Richard Mulrooney (neck strain); Brian Ching (L quadriceps strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: COL: Antonio de la Torre

YELLOW PERIL: COL: Nat Borchers (20 CP); Kyle Beckerman (17 CP); Pablo Mastroeni (16 CP) ... SJ: Troy Dayak (18 CP); Landon Donovan (16 CP); Brian Mullan (16 CP)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (35 meetings): Rapids 16 wins (2 shootout) 54 goals ... Earthquakes 16 wins (1 shootout) 55 goals ...3 draws IN DENVER (17 meetings): Rapids 9 wins (1 shootout) 27 goals ... Earthquakes 7 wins (0 shootout) 20 goals ... 1 draw

This is the fourth and final meeting between the two clubs this season the second in Denver in a series that is all but absolutely even after 35 meetings. The Rapids won the first game at home before the Quakes won the second at home the teams settling for a scoreless draw in their last meeting on Aug. 28 in San Jose.
The Earthquakes and Rapids both continued shutout streaks and unbeaten runs but settled for a scoreless draw at Spartan Stadium. Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon continued his remarkable season called upon to make nine saves on the evening in recording his 10th clean sheet of the season a Rapids club record.

Here's Dominic Kinnear's team from that game (4-4-2): Pat Onstad - Craig Waibel (Dwayne De Rosario 79) Jeff Agoos Troy Dayak Todd Dunivant (Eddie Robinson 80) -Brian Mullan Ronnie Ekelund Richard Mulrooney Ramiro Corrales - Brian Ching Landon Donovan.

Here's Tim Hankinson's team (4-4-1-1): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre Nat Borchers Ritchie Kotschau Darryl Powell (Gary Sullivan 83) -- Chris Henderson Kyle Beckerman Pablo Mastroeni (Jean Philippe Peguero 74) Matt Crawford - Mark Chung - Jordan Cila (Seth Trembly 85).
-The Earthquakes put together their finest performance of the season - with something close to a first-choice team for the first time in months - in the 3-1 victory against the Rapids on July 31.
-A surgical passing movement set up the Quakes' and Ching's first ripping home a perfectly-weighted through ball from Ronnie Ekelund from just inside the area (22).
-The Quakes then scored twice in five minutes after the break to put away the match. Ching grabbed his second when he tapped in from almost on the goal line after a wild sequence that saw Landon Donovan stopped twice in short order first by Joe Cannon then by the post. But Donovan found Ramiro Corrales for a third bite at the cherry and he drove a low cross through a host of Rapids defenders to find Ching (50). Donovan then hit for the third drilling home first-time a Brian Mullan cross whipped in from the right flank.
-Seth Trembly pulled back a consolation goal for the Rapids seven minutes from the final whistle when he hammered home a shot from all of 25 yards past Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad.
-In the first meeting the Rapids claimed a 1-0 victory in Denver on April 24. Chris Henderson scored a 26th-minute goal ripping a low drive from inside the penalty area beat San Jose 'keeper Pat Onstad just inside his right-hand post.
-A year ago the Rapids won both meetings in San Jose the 'Quakes winning once in Denver with the other match a scoreless draw.
-The Earthquakes won the season-opening match between the two clubs at Invesco Field on April 12 (Roberts 46 - Ching 1 Dunivant 22) but the Rapids won the next two both at Spartan Stadium. They won 2-0 on July 12 (Kotschau 34 Chung 49) then 2-1 on Aug. 30 (Mullan 59 - Chung 21 Spencer 67) before the scoreless draw in San Jose on Oct. 10.
-The victories in San Jose for the Rapids last year snapped a four-match winless streak (three consecutive losses) for Colorado away in the series. The Rapids loss at home to San Jose in the season opener last year snapped a three-match home winning streak for Colorado in the series.
-Mark Chung leads current Rapids players with 5 goals 5 assists in his career v San Jose but only 4 goals 1 assist have come while with Colorado. Chris Henderson has 4 goals 7 assists v San Jose with 2 goals 6 assists while with the Rapids. John Spencer and Ritchie Kotschau have 3 goals each v San Jose Spencer also with 4 assists.
-Landon Donovan has 4 goals 7 assists v Colorado leading all active 'Quakes and second on the club's all-time list (behind Ronald Cerritos) while Brian Ching has 3 goals. No other current Earthquakes player has more than 1 goal v Colorado though Brian Mullan has 5 assists and Richard Mulrooney has four. Ian Russell has 0 goals 5 assists.
-Coaches record: Tim Hankinson v SJ: P21 W11 L7 T3 ... Dominic Kinnear vs. COL: P3 W1 L1 T1

COLORADO RAPIDS
-The Colorado Rapids lost for the second consecutive match on the road this time a 1-0 defeat to the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday evening at Arrowhead Stadium. The result left the Rapids in a tie for second place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Galaxy with 39 points though the Rapids have played one more game - and if the teams remained tied the Galaxy would also own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
-Igor Simutenkov was once again the hero scoring less than a minute after coming on as a substitute to the give the Wizards the victory.
-Simutenkov played a neat 1-2 with Josh Wolff across the top of the area before sliding a rolling shot past Joe Cannon for the game's only goal (55) as the Rapids went down to defeat for the second consecutive week.
-On Wednesday Simutenkov gave the Wizards their first U.S. Open Cup his free kick that rattled off the underside of the bar and off Fire 'keeper Henry Ring five minutes into extra time giving K.C. a 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire.
-Rapids head coach Tim Hankinson made just one change to the team that lost 6-1 to the New England Revolution in Foxborough the previous Saturday. Ricky Lewis made his start in a Rapids uniform as Jean-Philippe Peguero was unable to play through injury though Hankinson also had a tactical re-fit.
-Here's Hankinson's team (4-1-4-1): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre (Kyle Beckerman 56) Nat Borchers Ritchie Kotschau Ricky Lewis (Seth Trembly 73) - Pablo Mastroeni - Chris Henderson Matt Crawford Jordan Cila (Alberto Delgado 61) Mark Chung - John Spencer
-"I think you have to establish that the most important thing we were looking for was to improve our play Hankinson said. "We really battled and competed and had one late breakdown on defense. We've got to do a better job when opposing players run across the box."
-Hankinson will be without defender Antonio de la Torre this weekend suspended for caution point accumulation. Darryl Powell listed as out on the club's injury report has returned to full training and could be available.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
-The San Jose Earthquakes failed to score for the second consecutive match and the fourth time in their last six league matches playing to a scoreless draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy at Spartan Stadium on Saturday night. The draw extended the Earthquakes winless streak to fourth games though they snapped a three-game losing streak and are now tied for fourth place in the Western Conference with Dallas Burn both on 35 points from 27 matches though they own the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Burn.
-Scoring chances were few and far between as the Earthquakes and Galaxy played the final 'California Clasico' of the league campaign.
-The result left the Galaxy tied with the Colorado Rapids for second place in the West while the Earthquakes pulled into a tie for fourth place with the Dallas Burn.
-"I guess 0-0 could be a pretty fair result for how the game was Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear said.
-Kinnear made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 away to the Kansas City Wizards the previous weekend. Eddie Robinson came back into the back four in his first start since April 24 (the fourth game of the season) replacing Ryan Cochrane. Chris Brown came into the attack to partner Landon Donovan as Brian Ching was out through a quadriceps injury.
-Here's Kinnear's team (4-4-2): Pat Onstad - Craig Waibel Troy Dayak Eddie Robinson Jeff Agoos - Brian Mullan (Ian Russell 86) Ronnie Ekelund Richard Mulrooney Ramiro Corrales (Jamil Walker 79) - Chris Brown (Dwayne De Rosario 67) Landon Donovan
-"I don't think we're going to win the West now Kinnear said "but at the finish line we want to make the playoffs. Every team in the West has a tough homestretch but we're going to Colorado trying to get three points (with a win)."

PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
The Colorado Rapids clinch a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a victory against the San Jose Earthquakes or a tie against the Quakes AND a Dallas Burn loss.
The San Jose Earthquakes are currently tied for fourth place in the Western Conference but if the season were to end today they would claim the final berth in the division by virtue of a better record in head-to-head competition (SJ 2 wins DAL 1 win)

Following are the tiebreaking procedures if teams are level in the standings:
-a. Head-to-head competition against all other teams equal in points based on highest points-per-game average.
-b. Overall team goal differential.
-c. Total goals scored.
-d-f. Tiebreakers a-c are applied to each team's regular-season road games only.
-g-i. Tiebreakers a-c are applied to each team's regular-season home games only.
-j. Fewest disciplinary points
-k. Coin flip

As of Sept. 25 here is how the MLS Cup playoffs would have looked:
-SERIES A: (E1) Columbus vs. (E4) Chicago
-SERIES B: (E2) MetroStars vs. (E3) D.C. United
-SERIES C: (W1) Kansas City vs. (W4) San Jose
-SERIES D: (W2) Los Angeles vs. (W3) Colorado
-EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP: Winner of CLB/CHI vs. Winner of MET/DC
-WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP: Winner of KC/SJ vs. Winner of COL/LA
-MLS CUP 2004: Winners of Conference Championship Games Series A - D played under home-and-home total goals format ... If teams tied on aggregate 30-minute golden-goal overtime period follows then followed by penalty kicks (if necessary) to determine Series winner ... Higher seed holds home-field advantage for Game 2 of Series ... Conference Championship Games and MLS Cup if tied after 90 minutes determined by 30-minute golden-goal overtime ... If neither team scores during that time the series will be decided via penalty kick shootout held according to FIFA regulations

Series A-D - Game One
Weekend of Friday October 22 - Sunday October 24 @ LOWER-SEED home site

Series A-D - Game Two (+ 30-minute golden-goal period if tied on aggregate goals)
Weekend of Friday October 29 - Friday October 31 @ HIGHER-SEED home site

Eastern Conference Championship / Nov. 5 / 6 / 7
Western Conference Championship / Nov. 5 / 6 / 7

MLS Cup 2004 / Sun. Nov. 14 - ABC / 3:30 PM ET - The Home Depot Center Carson Calif.