COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Last year, the Colorado Rapids went to Chicago and blew a 2-0 lead with less than 20 minutes to go. This season, on the back of a good recent run, the Rapids are in no mood to repeat such a defeat when they face Chicago on Wednesday.
Colorado are on a three-game win streak, all 1-0 victories against DC United, Seattle and Columbus. In fact, their last five games have had 1-0 score lines, with the recent victories preceded by defeats to San Jose and Los Angeles.
Head coach Gary Smith accepts that his team may come out the wrong side of tight games on occasion, but he is encouraged by the scorelines in the team’s three defeats this season.
“In all three of those [defeats], I think we can honestly say there were chances to get something from it,” the manager said at training this morning. “The group is set up now to be competitive wherever we go, whoever we play. There is no reason why we shouldn’t win, no reason why we can’t, and, on the back of three good victories and clean sheets, I’m sure the players are really looking forward to it.”
The Rapids will head into the Chicago match with some limitations. Pablo Mastroeni is suspended after his sending-off against Columbus on Saturday and Julien Baudet is only a probable starter as he deals with a recurring knee problem that caused him to leave the Crew match early, even though Baudet told MLSsoccer.com that his status was “good enough.”
Head coach Smith said a player of Mastroeni’s stature would clearly be missed, but there were plenty of options including Wells Thompson, Ross La Baeux and Jamie Smith. He hinted, though, that it might be J. Smith —who saw his first action on Saturday in several weeks—, who might get the start, with Mehdi Ballouchy possibly slipping into a more central midfield role.
“I think Jamie did a really good job when he came on Saturday,” head coach Smith said. “[He] was involved in a couple of very big moments.”
One of those moments came in the 85th minute, when the midfielder took a free kick and perfectly placed a cross onto the onrushing Drew Moor’s head for the win.
Another notable moment was his delightful pass into the path of Thompson, who did very well himself to turn the ball back to Omar Cummings. Unfortunately for the Rapids, the Jamaican grazed the post with his shot.
Manager Smith left open the possibility for Thompson, whom he described as “very tenacious and competitive,” and for rookie Ross LaBaeux, who could get his first league start in his hometown.
“All of those guys deserve a start,” Smith said. “I don’t think any of them will give us less. At some point, some of those guys have to step in and do a job.”
Even though it’s still unclear as to who will get the start in midfield, what is clear is that this group is teeming with confidence, a far cry from the misery of last season’s wretched defeat in Chicago. Nobody is looking at walking away with anything other than three points.
“We’ve performed well, we’ve won games, we’ve kept clean sheets,” head coach Smith said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t win a game of football.”