So now Seattle Sounders FC go to Colorado and try to “steal” some points — preferably three — to kick off this next phase on a positive footing.
It’s an important game in terms of extending this “unbeaten streak.” But more importantly, a positive result will give the team confidence as it plays its next four out of five games on the road.
Gaining more confidence, more self-belief is the name of the game for this squad at this juncture of the season.
And with a full complement of attacking options now at his disposal, Coach Sigi Schmid intends to grab the three points the old fashioned way — stuffing the ball into the back of the net. With star striker Fredy Montero primed and ready, and the emergence of Mauro Rosales as a significant play maker, expect to see the Sounders attack the Rapids’ defense.
“By steal, I dont mean that we are going to sit back and hope to score a goal and sit back,” Schmid said, “but we do think we are a good road team. We want to bring our road record to .500 and we need one more win to do that.
The Sounders, 1-2-3, managed to come back last week against the Philadelphia Union to secure a draw, 1-1. But Schmid initially had hoped to secure the three points at Philly and was willing to fight for a draw against the MLS Cup Champions. Colorado is 3-2-0 and has been idle since April 13.
I was hoping to get three in Philly and one in Colorado and then as we went into injury time in Philly I said, Ok, Ill take one today and well save the three for Colorado’,” Schmid said. “Its a tough place to play but we always try to go into road games with the ambition of walking away with a win.”
The Rapids are trying to halt a two-game losing skid. Since firing four past DC on April 3. The injury-plagued Rapids have been held scoreless in losses at FC Dallas (3-0) and Real Salt Lake (1-0).
They have been saddled with some injuries to key players — particularly at the forward position. The Rapids could receive a boost if Conor Casey, the human pit bull, can shake off his hamstring strain and play. He is listed as questionable. Former national-team player Pablo Mastroeni, a central midfielder, appears to be healthy and is expected to start.
Colorado Coach Gary Smith says he’s hard pressed to explain why suddenly his club has been beset by injuries, but that is the reality of professional sports. He said the loss to FC Dallas was more an aberration than any trend. He thought the close defeat to Real Salt Lake was tough because he thought his side had played well.
“Weve run into two good teams and fell on the wrong side of the results for different reasons,” Smith said. “Here, weve been strong, weve been dominant, weve been confident. We were well back on track against Real.”
Two other Rapids’ players may inject some added energy to the proceedings: Tyrone Marshall, who is expected to start in the center of the defense, and Sanna Nyassi, who is suffering from a strained hamstring and is questionable for Friday.
Both players left Seattle at the end of last season. Nyassi was left unprotected by Seattle in the MLS Expansion Draft, and Marshall and the Sounders could not agree to new terms and the Rapids were able to pick him up.
Its always motivating when you play against your old club, Marshall told MLSsoccer.com. But after the two defeats and playing at home, it will be even more motivating to get the W.
The Colorado match is the first of four road games, including three vs. Eastern Conference teams. Seattle returns to Qwest Field to host Toronto FC on April 30 before traveling to D.C. United on May 4 and Columbus on May 7.
Though the Sounders lead the series with the Rapids, 2-1-1, they have not won in Colorado in two previous trips. They secured a 2-2 draw in 2009 and lost 1-0 last season. The Rapids have outscored visitors at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 7-2 in 2011 and they are 18-4-10 in regular season home matches since the start of 2009.
Schmid can choose from a full slate of players this week. Montero played an influential role off the bench at Philadelphia, following a two-game absence. Montero set up the stoppage time equalizer by fellow substitute Alvaro Fernandez. Mike Fucito, for the first time, is also available for selection.
For Montero, it’s about being patient. It’s just a matter of time before the goals start coming. He did score two goals against the Rapids in the Community Shield match just prior to the beginning of the season.
Montero said he is not concerned about the lack of goals. “Actually I feel pretty calm,” he said, through an interpreter. “Ive been training my hardest. Ive been playing well in the games Ive played, Ive tried to convert the goals, and it hasnt happened yet, but it could be in the next game.”
For Schmid, it’s about the team finding that extra confidence factor that comes from winning on the road. If Seattle can win its next two, then suddenly the confidence of the team soars.
Playing at Colorado will not be easy.
“Its a tough place to play but we always try to go into road games with the ambition of walking away with a win,” Schmid said. “Our teams confidence is growing and being able to go on the road and get a win against a good team helps that — gives it another infusion.
“Its just a matter of trying to pick up that confidence factor,” Schmid said. “Its going to be a very difficult assignment. Colorado is a good team. They have lost their last two games so theyre going to be a hungry team.