MLS Cup Playoff Preview: Colorado vs Columbus
Thurs., Oct. 27, (8p.m. MT; Altitude)
REFEREE: Jorge Gonzalez. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Kermit Quisenberry; 4th: Andrew Chapin
COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); DF Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery); QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (concussion); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain)
COLUMBUS CREW - QUESTIONABLE: MF Danny O'Rourke (L knee tightness); MF Tony Tchani (R knee surgery)
SUSPENDED: CLB: Emmanuel Ekpo (through wild card)
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: COL 16 wins (2 shootout), 48 GF...CLB 11 wins (1 shootout), 44 GF...8 ties
2011 HEAD-TO-HEAD: COL 1 win, 2 GF; CLB 1 win, 5 GF; 0 ties
AT DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PARK:
- 8/5: COL 2, CLB 0 (Mullan 54; Cummings 79)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: COL 1 win, 2 GF...CLB 1 win, 2 GF...0 ties
- For a second consecutive year, the Rapids and Crew will meet in Commerce City in the opening phase of the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Rapids won the first leg of last year's Eastern Conference Semifinals, 1-0, before winning the series on penalty kicks after a Columbus 2-1 in the second leg.
- "It's a one-off," defender Drew Moor said. "The winner moves on, loser goes home. Anything can happen in games like that. ... We need to take advantage of our home field."
- With his seventh goal in the season finale, midfielder Jeff Larentowicz won the club's Golden Boot. "That's something I was not expecting, and I wish it weren't me," Larentowicz said. "But [Saturday] there was a free kick and it's a situation where you're trying to find a hole and it found it's way in."
- Larentowicz won the honor after two seasons where strikers Conor Casey and Omar Cummings combined for more than 20 goals in each year. Casey scored six goals this year in 11 games before his season was cut short with a torn Achilles; Cummings had three goals in 18 starts.
- “There’s no doubt the forwards have been going through a bit of a sticky patch and, when that happens, you have to find the goals from somewhere else,” Rapids head coach Gary Smith said. “Once again, Jeff scored a very important goal.”
- In last year's run to the MLS Cup title, the Rapids scored five goals. Two came from Casey - but two came from Pablo Mastroeni and Kosuke Kimura (one each). The last was the Cup-winning own goal.
- "You look at the playoffs last year and you look at the entire season this year, we've gotten goals from all over the field," said Moor, who scored a career high four goals, including two game-winning and two game-tying goals. "Even guys who haven't started a lot this year have game-winning goals. And that's key, especially in the playoffs."
- The goal scored by Vancouver in the final league game was the first allowed by Colorado in 300 minutes over their final four games, and they enter the playoffs unbeaten in those four (2-0-2) after a three-game losing run.
- "I think we've definitely found our form, which is key at this time of the season," Moor said. "But it's a much different ballgame once you go into the playoffs. We're going to have to stay on the same page, stay concentrated, continue to communicate and at times play desperate, but hopefully it doesn't come to that. We need to kill off plays early and provide as much support for our goal scorers as we can, and that is by keeping zeros and keeping shutouts."
- The Crew fell into the Wild Card game after dropping their season finale to Chicago, then seeing Houston dispatch the LA Galaxy to jump over Columbus and Philadelphia into second place in the Eastern Conference.
- "It would have been nice to come back after being down two goals and win this. We were on the way to do that. Obviously we gave up one play and we end up losing the game. It is what it is. We have to regroup and play our best game in Colorado," said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha.
- After removing Kevin Burns for Robbie Rogers after 39 minutes in Chicago, Warzycha said Danny O'Rourke "doesn’t have a choice" in starting in Colorado. O'Rourke was held after the New England, his fifth 90-minute outing in six contests after not starting the first 27 games because of knee surgery nearly a year ago.
- "All year I’m trying to find the right combination,” Warzycha said. “We saw a little bit of what Danny and [Ekpo] could do when they played together at New England. That was the combination I was looking for all season but obviously we can’t have it now.”
- When Rogers came on, Dilly Duka moved into the central midfield spot along with the suspended Emmanuel Ekpo, with Eddie Gaven holding down the other flank. “He was a link in the middle,” Warzycha said of Duka. “That was a good move by us to bring him inside and have more touches because in the first 30 minutes I don’t think he saw the ball enough.”
- Duka started the last nine games of the season, while Rogers had not appeared in the two games before the Chicago match.
- “It’s not going to be the same [as Chicago], but we’ve been interchanging our first 11 all year, especially in center mid," Duka said. "We’re still confident whoever we put in the middle we’re going to jell and be a tough team to break down.”
- Of the Crew starters in last year's playoff match in Colorado, five are no longer with the club.
- "I don’t know if this team yet is mature enough, or maybe naive on the mistakes we’ve made. So there’s improvement that we need to make but overall I think this season so far has been pretty successful. Anything can happen in the playoffs," said Rogers.