COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Two of the Colorado Rapids’ biggest lowlights of the 2011 season came against the Seattle Sounders.
The first came on April 22 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, when Brian Mullan put a leg-breaking tackle on Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani, drawing a 10-game suspension and hordes of negative publicity to the 33-year-old veteran. The second came two months later in Seattle on July 16, when star striker Conor Casey ruptured his Achilles and was forced to miss the rest of the season with the injury.
On Saturday, the 3-2-0 Rapids look to avoid both controversy and bad luck to nail down their second road win of the year when they face the Sounders (2-1-1) at CenturyLink Field (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
All eyes will be fixed on Mullan, who will play in front of the Seattle faithful for the first time since last April’s incident. He did not speak with reporters in the lead-up to the match, and coach Oscar Pareja preferred to focus on the tall task of winning at raucous CenturyLink Field.
“I know it’s a hard place to play at and I know it’s a good team, but our boys have to know we’re a good team as well,” Pareja told MLSsoccer.com Thursday. “It’s not an easy schedule, but you have to put that aside and face the games.”
Colorado are coming off a disappointing 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake last Saturday, the latest in a string of disappointing first-half road performances for the men in burgundy. Pareja’s side have been outscored 3-0 in the first 20 minutes of their three road games this year, and nobody within the organization seems to have an idea why the team has struggled so mightily at the onset of matches away from home.
“We have to come out with the same energy [as Seattle]. Somehow it’s not there and happening,” right back Kosuke Kimura told MLSsoccer.com Thursday. “We need a little push and we have to do that as a team, and not just individually.”
As for the Rapids’ key to victory against the Sounders, coach Pareja switched from English to Spanish to explain exactly what he wants to see out of his team Saturday.
“We need [guts] at the beginning,” he said in Spanish.
And just maybe, this time around, some highlights.
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.