Rapids look to mix it up with West's powerhouses

Colorado hoping to close gap with teams ahead in the standings

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The Colorado Rapids are holding onto a playoff spot at the moment, but their results so far show a distinct gap between themselves and the other Western Conference teams able to make that claim.

Coming into Wednesday’s clash against the San Jose Earthquakes (7:30 pm MT, BUY TICKETS), the fifth-placed Rapids are 0-3-0 against the four teams above them in the Western Conference standings (Real Salt Lake, San Jose, Seattle and Vancouver). However, Wednesday’s match will be the first time the Rapids play one of those four teams on their home turf, and collecting three points against a direct competitor is squarely on the minds of the home team.

“You look at the standings and you want to beat the teams that are ahead of you,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday. “You want to show yourself that you can compete against them because chances are they’re going to be there in the playoffs. And we’re not playing the Eastern Conference in the playoffs this year.”

Colorado will have striker Omar Cummings (ankle) and potentially center back Marvell Wynne available for selection for Wednesday’s clash. Wynne told MLSsoccer.com that he felt “85-90 percent” recovered from a hamstring injury that has sidelined the speedster for over a month.

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Midfielder Jamie Smith could also make his season debut, having recovered from a torn ACL suffered last October. Teammates Conor Casey (hamstring) and Brian Mullan (knee) are both expected to be available after each played in Saturday’s loss to Vancouver.

As the Rapids appear to be returning to health in a hurry, Pareja is enjoying the long-awaited opportunity to pick from a wider base of players.

“I have to say that these four months for us have been a challenge at times,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said Tuesday. “But this has developed an instinct for the team. The team has been stronger and we want to get better results. To me, it’s a process and we’re going to get there.”

Midfielder Pablo Mastroeni not expected to play for Colorado. Meanwhile, the visiting Earthquakes will be rested, not having played since their US Open Cup win over the Minnesota Stars on June 5 and have been off from league play since May 27.

The Rapids will also enter Wednesday’s game in what they feel is their best overall run of form so far this season. Despite a 1-0 loss to Vancouver Saturday, the Rapids generated the majority of the opportunities on goal and struck the woodwork twice in the match’s final ten minutes, leaving Colorado optimistic that they can collect three points Wednesday.

“It is a quick turnaround. The league doesn’t give you much time to regret or feel sorry for yourself,” Pareja said following Saturday’s defeat. “So we keep building on [Saturday’s performance]…San Jose is around the corner. So we keep going. We have to find a way to get some points.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.