COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The games have come fast and furious for the Colorado Rapids in the past six weeks, and there’s certainly no relief in sight this time around either.
Following Friday night’s 1-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy in California, the Rapids flew back to Colorado to prepare quickly for their CONCACAF Champions League Group B game against Santos Laguna of Mexico on Tuesday (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer).
While head coach Gary Smith has been ready to test some of his younger, less experienced players so far in the CCL, this week’s matchup marks a crucial step in qualification for the knockout stages of the competition.
"At this point in the season, I think form is going to be key to a lot of guys that are either in or out of the team," Smith told ColoradoRapids.com. "Our next four games, when I look at them, are going to shape the face of our season: two Champions League games at home, and two domestic games that we'd all like to be getting points out of."
On paper, Tuesday's match features the two strongest teams in the group, and Smith expects to put out a strong side to try and clinch all three points. The Rapids currently lead the group with four points through two games, while Santos trail close behind with three points.
“There will be one or two changes but I will want as strong a lineup as possible,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “I don’t want to have to go to Metapán or Santos and have to win a game of football.”
After the home Santos game, the Rapids will play Real España (Honduras) next week at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. After that, they have to travel to Isidro Metapán (El Salvador) and Santos to finish off the CCL group stage.
Smith also has to balance his selection with the fact that the squad will leave for Toronto on Thursday for a matchup on Saturday afternoon against TFC.
Drew Moor seems certain to add some solidity in the back four after missing the Galaxy game because of yellow-card accumulation.
New signing Miguel Comminges, a defender from Guadeloupe, was a late signing Friday night and arrived in Colorado Sunday to be eligible for Tuesday night’s game. Smith said he expected Comminges to play at either left or right back. The 29-year-old has experience of playing in France and in England where his clubs included Southend United and Swindon Town.
“He came in a month ago and did really well,” Smith said. “It will give Drew [Moor] and Kosuke [Kimura] some respite and strengthen that back four."
"He'll be in the 18, but I doubt he'll start," Smith told ColoradoRapids.com. "He needs a bit of acclimatizing, he only flew in yesterday. I'd like to get him in the fold and working as quickly as I can, however the result is imperative."
Smith said he grew interested in the defender from his connections with Cardiff City in Wales, where his father has been working as a scout. Comminges played for the team between 2008 and 2011 before joining Southend.