Having pocketed their first road point of 2017 with a Jekyll and Hyde display at Toronto FC last Saturday, the Colorado Rapids head west this weekend to see if they can bag their first road win of the season, as they face San Jose Earthquakes (Altitude, 6:00 p.m. MT).
The Quakes return home after a three-game road stretch, during which they failed to pick up a point, while conceding 12 goals, with defeats at Atlanta, New York Red Bulls, and Seattle.
But at home, San Jose are a little more resilient, boasting a 5-1-4 record. And, though the Rapids were comfortable in recording a 3-0 win over the Quakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park back in May, they have yet to win at Avaya Stadium, losing both previous visits 1-0. Indeed, the Rapids have just one win in 14 trips to San Jose (1-7-6), going back to the 2004 season.
And it is the road form which will ultimately determine the Rapids’ fate when playoff places are handed out. Six of the next eight games are on the road, while the remaining nine away trips are all at Western Conference opponents.
A win would lift them above LA Galaxy, at least for a few hours. It would also close the gap on San Jose, who are currently sitting seventh, six points better off - albeit having played two games more.
Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni has already indicated that Tim Howard will be rested for the trip, having been involved in the CONCACAF Gold Cup success with the USA. That means a second successive start for Zac MacMath. New signing Stefan Aigner is not yet in camp, and so his MLS debut will have to wait a while.
Since the sides last met, there have been changes at the Quakes. Dominic Kinnear has departed as head coach, to be replaced by Chris Leitch - an unused substitute the last time the Rapids won in San Jose (August 13, 2011).
The California club has brought in new players, including Georgia international midfielder Valeri Qazaishvili, or Vako for short. He has made two substitute appearances, scoring the consolation goal at the Red Bulls on his debut, but could be in line for his first start.
They have also signed defender Francois Affolter, who has played in his native Switzerland with FC Luzern and Young Boys, as well as in the German Bundesliga at Werder Bremen.
Key for the Rapids is how much they can replicate the second half performance in Toronto. A sluggish start could have been costly, had Toronto been able to fully capitalize on their overwhelming dominance. As it was, the Rapids got to the break only a goal down, and reappeared revitalized and ready to take the game to the Eastern Conference leaders, emerging with a battling 1-1 tie.
Without a competitive game for 18 days heading to Toronto, fatigue was a factor in the latter stages. The Rapids, therefore, should be in better shape for what awaits in San Jose.
Rapids: Bobby Burling (out - foot), Shkëlzen Gashi (questionable - calf), Joshua Gatt (questionable - ankle)
Quakes: Kip Colvey (out - knee), Harold Cummings (out - leg), Anibal Godoy (out - suspended/yellow card accumulation), Marc Pelosi (out - left knee), Kofi Sarkodie (out - calf)
HOW TO FOLLOW
Radio: Altitude 950; La Invasora 87.7FM (Spanish)
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Assistant (bench): Ian Anderson
Assistant (opposite): Danny Thornberry
Fourth Official: Marcos DeOliveira