Commerce City, Colo. - A week of training that began vocal demands from veterans and ended with a fun final drill revealed one message: Sunday's match at Vancouver is the key to a shot at the playoffs.
"It's a cup final," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told ColoradoRapids.com Friday after training. "We have to treat it as the biggest game of the year."
The Rapids head to Canada trailing the Whitecaps by seven points for the fifth and final playoff spots in the Western Conference with five games left. FC Dallas is also in the mix for the final spot but have a bye this weekend.
MATCH PREVIEW: COLORADO AT VANCOUVER
Colorado and Vancouver have already met twice this season, with the Whitecaps winning both contests 1-0 despite the Rapids outshooting them a combined 31-18.
"We've had close games with (Vancouver) but we haven't been coming out on top," Larentowicz siad. "But there's not other excuse Sunday night, we have to win."
Vancouver are in the midst of a five-game losing streak - the longest in their short history - with the last four matches on the road.
Colorado knows road woes all to well. They head to BC Place carrying a team-record 9 game road losing streak. Sunday's game at Vancouver is the first of four consecutive to close the season at home, where Whitecaps are 7-2-4.
"It's time for us to get a result," coach Oscar Pareja said. "Obviously now it gets tight against a team that is fighting for a spot in the playoffs. So we're going with that mentality...The boys have been training thinking that we have to go to Vancouver to get a result."
A Colorado win on Sunday would move the team within five points of the last spot, and the Rapids play three of their final four matches at home.
"Things change quickly in the League," Larentowicz said. "You get one win and you can start to feel good. We've got some games at home, so if we can get past this one - which is the main thing - then going forward, it's possible."
Tuesday's training saw an energized and vocal group that demanded more out of each other. By Friday, it seemed everyone was on the same page, with players looking lively and relaxed during the final shooting drills of the week.
"(We) are a team that pushes and is always trying to make things happen," Pareja said. "But this week has been special. I know that they feel this could be the last chance and we're going to fight for it. Every practice has been done with that intention, that 'this practice has to be in game mentality.' Not because they other ones have not, but because they know that there is no more time."