COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The Colorado Rapids head into their World Cup break a happy bunch, especially after Wednesday’s frantic 2-2 draw in Chicago, where an injury time equalizer from Conor Casey ensured they would feel just that little bit better.
Not that the Rapids are exactly putting their feet up over the next couple of weeks, though. Head coach Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com that the players would have some time off, just enough to enjoy the first few opening days of the World Cup, before resuming training as normal on Monday.
Thankfully, the time difference between Denver and South Africa means that players and coaching staff should be able to watch as many World Cup games as they wish, given that training should straddle the second and third matches each day.
But don’t expect many of them to get up for those early morning games that kick off at 5:30 am MT. Japan’s Kosuke Kimura said he doubted he would be up that early even to watch his own country play. Luckily for him, Japan’s first game, against Cameroon on Monday, is at 8 am.
The injured right back, who hopes to be back for the Rapids’ first game after the break in Houston (June 26), knows how crucial that game will be.
“We have to get points against Cameroon because then it is the Netherlands,” Kimura said about a game he might actually get up to watch.
Most of the players said they would be watching the games either in the comfort of their homes or with teammates after training. Casey, who is taking some time off in Las Vegas with teammate Pablo Mastroeni, will watch some games there, including the big US vs. England match tomorrow. Upon his return to Denver, Casey said he would try to blend in with the locals at various bars in his neighborhood to watch the remaining matches.
The big striker is tipping Argentina. “I think they are due,” he said.
However, neither Casey nor Mastroeni wanted to predict a result of Group B’s opener. Mastroeni did say that soccer is always unpredictable and that the US has a chance against their more illustrious opponents
It is hard not to think of a similar game in which Mastroeni himself played and where the US was such an underdog.
In 2002, when the Rapids’ captain had just eight caps, started the game against Portugal. The US eventually prevailed 3-2 over what was then one of the better teams in the world.
“It was David taking down Goliath [and] it really spurred belief in the group,” Mastroeni said of that game. “We exceeded peoples’ expectations in 2002, including our own.”
Casey’s strike partner, Omar Cummings, who ended his scoring drought with the team’s first goal on Wednesday, said his World Cup pick is Brazil.
Midfielder, Mehdi Ballouchy, thinks that nothing can stop Spain, though he does have a soft spot for Algeria. The Moroccan said the US must not underestimate their North African opponents when they play on June 23.
No matter who their picks, one thing’s for sure: the Rapids will definitely enjoy this opening World Cup weekend.
Unbeaten in their last four games, including three wins, the team is off to one of its best starts ever. They can now sit back, enjoy the greatest sporting spectacle in the world and drink a few beers before getting back to the grind on Monday.