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With all due respect to UNLV, the Colorado Rapids’ preseason program is about to get serious.


On Sunday evening, kick-off 7 p.m. PT, Pablo Mastroeni’s men play San Jose Earthquakes at Cashman Field in the inaugural Las Vegas Pro Soccer Challenge Cup (TICKETS). According to the coach, it will be the first “barometer” for the progress of his side and, remember, with the opening game of the MLS season just three weeks away.


After a horrible end to 2014, Mastroeni and the technical staff have fashioned a new side. In fact they are a couple of signings away from being able to field a perfectly decent XI of winter additions - goalkeeper through striker.


Most MLS sides had got 180 minutes of action under their belts before the Rapids kicked off against college opposition on Friday. Their 2-0 victory was solid enough but, as preseason games go, this contest has much more meaning.


THE OPPOSITION

The Earthquakes are one of the few MLS sides who have changed more than the Rapids ahead of the 2015 campaign. Dominic Kinnear replaced Mark Watson as head coach at the end of the season and the franchise replaced the Buck Shaw Stadium with the new, 18,000-seat Avaya Stadium.


They were one of the two teams that finished below the Rapids last season and so, understandably, Kinnear is looking to rebuild his side too.


One of his first acquisitions was Marvell Wynne in the Re-Entry Draft after his option had been declined by the Rapids. The pacy full-back arrived in Colorado in 2010 and lifted the MLS Cup in his first season. Meanwhile tough-tackling midfielder Sam Cronin made the opposite journey and may line up in burgundy in Vegas.


Kinnear also added MLS experience in midfielder Sanna Nyassi - who played for the Rapids in 2011 - and keeper Andy Gruenebaum. Both were also brought in via the same Re-Entry Draft method.


Captain and USMNT striker Chris Wondolowski remains their main attacking threat.


WHAT PABLO SAYS …

“We are using these games as a barometer to where we are as a group right now. The result is not important it is about developing our identity. We have taken three weeks without playing any competitive game to do so. Now it will be nice to see the guys play and compete the right way. If they do that then the result will follow. 


"The focus is applying all the stuff we have been focusing on the last few weeks. With the ball we want to be more dynamic. We want to be very north and south, not laboring east to west.


"On the defensive side, we want to be the most hated team to play against.”