COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – There may be some out there who overlook the US Open Cup. Given the preparations for and approach to tomorrow’s qualifier against the New York Red Bulls, nothing could be further from the truth for the Colorado Rapids.
Not only did the Rapids leave a day early for the East Coast trip, as has been their wont this season in MLS games, the starting XI on Wednesday won’t be all that far off a first team.
While veterans like Pablo Mastroeni and Conor Casey look set to remain in Colorado ahead of the weekend game against Seattle, and Ian Joyce may be an unfamiliar name in goal for the Rapids, the back four should be similar to the one that will start against Seattle.
Regulars Mehdi Ballouchy, Colin Clark and Wells Thompson—scorer of both goals in the win against Kansas in the last qualifying round—should be among the midfielders while Omar Cummings will partner one or both of Andre Akpan and Quincy Amarikwa up front.
“Four fifths of the team will be first-team players,” Gary Smith, head coach, told MLSsoccer.com at training on Monday. “I see no reason why, after ten days without a game, these guys cannot feature.”
But there will still be opportunities for other players like midfielder Ross LaBaeux and central defender Mike Holody to get an opportunity. Another player who hasn’t had much game time yet, Claudio Lopez, could also play a big role. El Piojo, who has featured in very few games since his move to Colorado in April, will be looking to wedge himself into a starting position for Saturday if he performs well tomorrow night.
“Claudio will play,” Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to get as many games as possible.”
The game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET, with the winner going through to the last 16 of the competition.