Smith has formation options ahead of opener

Solid results give Colorado boss some flexibilty against Crew

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Gary Smith has tinkered with his formations in the last several weeks, but all that change doesn’t seem to have harmed the overall form of the Colorado Rapids.

Whether it’s been a 4-3-3, a 4-5-1 or the more traditional 4-4-2, the Rapids enter Thursday’s Eastern Conference semifinal series opener against the Columbus Crew with an excellent record over the last couple of months. Since their Aug. 7 home victory over San Jose, the Rapids have gone 6-3-4, scoring 25 goals and conceding 15.

While two of the three defeats came against fellow playoff teams Columbus and New York, the record also includes two ties against Real Salt Lake, a road draw with FC Dallas and a decisive 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.

All the formations seem to be working. Smith admitted this week to pros and cons with all the different set-ups, but he has no doubt about the team’s form.

“We have seen the best progression of form in the last six weeks or so,” he said. “I’m not sure we had found our true identity before that.”

It’s unclear which formation Smith will use Thursday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Will he go for an all-out attack with three forwards so that the Rapids can pound the Columbus goal and understudy 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum? Or will he favor a 4-4-2 to allow forwards Conor Casey and Omar Cummings to do what they do best by combining together as more of a cohesive unit?

Smith never reveals lineups, particularly at this crucial stage of the season. What he does know, however, is that there are much higher stakes involved with every decision he’s about to make.

“We all know we are moving into a very different realm in the season,” he said. “There’s a different feel about the group and we are so enthused about these playoffs. It is going to be a fabulous occasion Thursday and I hope we can maintain the crest of the wave we have been riding.”

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