Commerce City, Colo. - In order to defend their MLS Cup title, the Colorado Rapids will have to play one extra playoff game this year compared to last. The format of the MLS Cup Playoffs was altered slightly for 2011, adding two single-elimination Wild Card games, with each winner moving on to the home-and-home Conference Semifinals. The Rapids will face the Columbus Crew in one of the Wild Card games on Thursday at 8 pm MT at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"It's a one-off," defender Drew Moor said Monday. "The winner moves on, loser goes home. Anything can happen in games like that."
The Wild Card game is a rematch of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals, which Colorado won on penalty kicks after the two-game series ended tied 2-2. Colorado captain Pablo Mastroeni scored his first career playoff goal to lead the Rapids to a 1-0 win over the Crew in the first-ever playoff game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on October 28, 2010. The Rapids won the series on penalty kicks in Columbus a week later after the Crew had tied the series 2-2 on aggregate.
This season, the home team has won both meeting: Columbus 4-1 in June and Colorado 2-0 in August.
"We need to take advantage of our home field," added Moor.
The Rapids enter the game on a four game unbeaten run in MLS play, during which they've only surrendered two goals.
"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 desparate, 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."
On the offensive end, the team received goals from 15 different players in all competitions, with 13 different players contributing a game-winning or game-tying goals. And on a team that has relied on goals from forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings for the past few years, it is surprising that defenders and midfielders have contributed nine of the game-winning goals.
"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."
Having gone through three intense playoff matchups last year, Moor knows what these games present.
"There's nothing you can say to prepare yourself for this game," Moor said. "You just have to go out and grind it out for 90 minutes."