Preview: United vs Rapids
Colorado Rapids versus D.C. United at RFK Stadium, Washington, DC
United lead all-time regular-season series 15-11-6
What's at stake?
Saturday’s hosts have stumbled out to the worst start in MLS with one win and six losses, but over in the stronger Western Conference, 5th-placed Colorado find themselves just as many points back of their conference leaders (12) as United, who are desperate to keep the likes of New York and Columbus from disappearing over the horizon before the World Cup break. The Rapids have been perhaps the league’s streakiest team, reeling off a three-game run of victories in all competitions last month before slumping to two straight losses this month. After a horrendous start, D.C. have improved in recent weeks but victories remain elusive.
United beat the Rapids 3-1 at RFK on July 18, 2009 as Bryan Namoff scored a rare double. Netting an own goal on an awkwardly shanked clearance in the first half, the veteran defender redeemed himself in style with a spectacular diving header to finish Christian Gomez’s near-post corner kick for the game winner. The strike was later named “Goal of the Year” for D.C.
Late head coach Glenn “Mooch” Myernick led the bottom-seeded Rapids on a Cinderella run to the MLS Cup final in 1997. But Marcus Hahnemann, Marcelo Balboa and the rest of Myernick’s quirky bunch had the misfortune of facing D.C. United’s blossoming dynasty on home turf and the party ended in a 2-1 win for Bruce Arena’s squad at cold, rainy RFK, the second of four league titles for D.C.
Heroes & Villains
Omar Cummings vs. the United defense – Few in the fragile D.C. back line would be expected to even keep pace with the pacey Jamaican striker, much less keep him from carving out scoring chances. Yet that’s exactly what is required on Saturday night. Meanwhile, his partner Conor Casey enters the match with a point to prove after missing out on the United States’ World Cup roster and presents a contrasting set of weapons that must be blunted as well.
Clyde Simms vs. Pablo Mastroeni– Two of the top destroyers in the league will face off on Saturday—though under Curt Onalfo’s system, Simms has been asked to roam forward more often—and that matchup could set the tone for the midfield battle between D.C. and Colorado. While he remains a tireless worker in the center of the park, Simms has also come agonizingly close to opening his scoring account in recent games and more of his late runs into the penalty box may help United unlock the Rapids defense.
Stat that makes you go "Hmm …"
July 10, 1999 –The last time the Mile High Club won a league match at RFK Stadium. In a league where parity and balance traditionally make predicting results an exercise in futility, the Rapids-United series offers a reassuring contrast: The home team simply does not lose. United’s struggles in the thin Denver air may be understandable, but Colorado’s miserable, decade-plus skid in the nation’s capital is somewhat less so.
He said it
“We have a good thing going with the Rapids. I think we're playing pretty well. I'm just trying to move on.”—Rapids star striker Conor Casey feels the sting of being excluded from the U.S. national team’s 30-man preliminary World Cup roster this week despite playing an important role in the qualifying rounds.