Commerce City, Colo. – Colorado head coach Gary Smith will once again be forced to change his lineup on Wednesday night when the Rapids host the Philadelphia Union at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Last weekend at Real Salt Lake, the manager decided it best to rest in-form striker Omar Cummings in order for his sprained left ankle to improve, hoping to have him fit for the two games this week.
Newcomer Macoumba Kandji started his first match for the Rapids at forward in place of Cummings against RSL alongside team leading scorer Conor Casey.
“Physically I felt good until about the 70th minute, and then I started to get tired because of the altitude; I’m not used to it yet,” said Kandji, who was replaced by Ross LaBauex in the 73rd minute.
Casey scored his 11th goal of the season in that match but also picked up his fifth yellow card, which means an automatic one-game suspended that he has to serve against the Union.
The rest for Cummings appears to have worked, as he trained with the squad on Monday and Tuesday and looks set to go against the Union.
“I’m not as sharp as I want to be,” said Cummings after Tuesday’s training. “But I’m coming back and it’s getting better every day. I’m looking forward to the game.”
Smith said that Cummings will likely start up top with Kandji on Wednesday, and he expects the combination of the two fast players to offer a different dynamic.
“We’re going to see some real explosive play from those two,” said Smith of pairing Cummings with Kandji. “I expect one-v-one situations to be created regularly; I would hope, the opportunity to get down the sides of the back four; and I would think very much keeping the back four on their toes because of the sheer pace that is going to be up front.”
For only the second time this year, the Rapids find themselves in the middle of three games in a week. After tying at Salt Lake on the weekend, and hosting Philadelphia on Wednesday, Colorado face DC United on Saturday. The only other time the team had three games in seven days was in April.
With Cummings returning from injury and Kandji adjusting to the altitude, to go along with a heavier schedule, Smith knows it’s important to have other players ready.
“Quincy (Amarikwa) has come along leaps and bound,” Smith said of the young forward. “Himself and Andre (Akpan) can look forward to some more action, I hope, as we come to these closing stages.
“We’re going to need goals, we certainly need points, and the more guys I have out there and the more opportunities I have to bring players into a game who are capable of adding to our tally or scoring a goal or making a difference, I think it’s going to vital at this stage of the season.”
Smith also knows that Philadelphia are a dangerous opponent.
“We’re going to run into a team that are very confident,” said Smith of Philadelphia. “They had a wonderful win at the weekend, and they’ll probably feel as though they can add to that. I think they’ll come here and try to beat us. I don’t think Peter (Nowak) is the type of guy who will sit in and try to get away with a point; (he’ll) be more aggressive and try to take all three points from us. I honestly think it will be a very, very tough encounter.”
Kick off on Wednesday is set for 7:30 pm local time.