PREVIEW: Crew vs. Rapids

Colorado play host to surging Columbus side

DICK’S SPORTING GOODS PARK, Commerce City, Colo.
9:30 p.m. ET (FOX Soccer / Deportes)
August 5, 2011 (WEEK 21; MLS Game 204)

A pair of teams coming off impressive victories meet at Dick’s Sporting
Goods Park when the Colorado Rapids play host to the Columbus Crew on
FOX Soccer Night in America. The Rapids return home after becoming the
first team to win at Philadelphia Union in a 2-1 win last Friday night.
The Columbus Crew became just the third team in an MLS league game to
come away with a victory at Rio Tinto Stadium when they defeated Real
Salt Lake 2-0 last weekend.

REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Jeff Hosking; 4th: Jose Carlos Rivero
MLS Career: 185 games; FC/gm: 27.4; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 42; pens: 50

INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS – OUT: FW Conor Casey
(L achilles tear); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); FW Omar
Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain); FW
Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear) … COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: DF Shaun
Francis (L adductor strain); MF Dilly Duka (R ankle sprain); MF Tony
Tchani (R knee inflammation); GK Alex Riggs (L oblique strain);
DOUBTFUL: MF Rich Balchan (L adductor strain); FW Emilio Renteria (L
quad strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Josh Williams (R hip labral tear); FW
Jeff Cunningham (R knee inflammation); PROBABLE: FW Andres Mendoza (L
hamstring strain); GK William Hesmer (L quad strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: COL: Conor Casey… CLB: Julius James
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: COL: Caleb Folan, Ross LaBauex, Jeff
Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Sanna Nyassi,
Wells Thompson, Anthony Wallace … CLB: Kevin Burns, Tommy Heinemann,
Tony Tchani

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (34 meetings): Rapids 15 wins (2 shootout), 46 goals … Crew 11 wins (0 shootout), 44 goals … Ties 8
AT COLORADO (16 meetings): Rapids 9 wins (1 shootout), 18 goals … Crew 3 wins (1 shootout), 13 goals … Ties 4

  • Andres Mendoza scored goals on either side of halftime as the Crew
    eased to a 4-1 win against a 10-man Rapids squad on June 26 at Crew
    Stadium in their first meeting this season.
  • The Crew had defeated the Rapids in two consecutive games at Dick’s
    Sporting Goods Park, and come away with points on three consecutive
    trips to Colorado, until the Rapids’ 1-0 home win last June 5.
  • Colorado hasn’t won in Columbus since 2004, a 2-1 win at Crew Stadium.
    The Crew have won five of the home league meetings since, with two
    draws.
  • A year ago, the clubs met in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The
    Rapids won at home 1-0, then the Crew won the return match 2-1, the
    Rapids advancing after winning the penalty shootout 5-4.
  • Coaches record: Robert Warzycha vs. COL: P5 W3 L1 D1 … Gary Smith vs. CLB: P5 W1 L3 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)
6/26: CLB 4, COL 1 (Gaven 12, Mendoza 18, 47; Heinemann 56 – Casey 5)

  • The Rapids took the lead after just five minutes, when Conor Casey
    executed a perfect snap header from Jamie Smith’s corner kick.
  • But the Crew were in the lead not long after. Eddie Gaven took the
    ball from Scott Palguta at midfield and went solo to the penalty area
    before cutting right and sliding a shot inside the far netting in the
    12th minute. Then Andres Mendoza took advantage of an errant back pass
    in the 18th minute and rocketed an 18-yarder off the crossbar and into
    the net.
  • The match turned for good in the 29th minute when Casey was sent off
    by referee Andrew Chapin after lunging for a 50-50 ball with William
    Hesmer as the Crew goalkeeper went to the ground.
  • The Crew broke the game open after the break. Defender Chad Marshall’s
    clearance from in front of goal bounced over Rapids defender Kosuke
    Kimura near midfield, and Mendoza raced in alone, ripping a snap shot
    from 18 yards (47).
  • Then nine minutes later, a Gaven cross from the right side deflected
    off Tyrone Marshall and fell kindly to Tommy Heinemann. His one-time
    shot bounced once, but goalkeeper Matt Pickens could only get a piece of
    the shot before it trickled in over the line.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-3-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad
    Marshall, Andy Iro, Josh Gardner - Rich Balchan - Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel
    Ekpo (Eric Gehrig 85), Bernardo Anor - Tommy Heinemann (Jeff Cunningham
    68), Andres Mendoza (Justin Meram 67).
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Drew Moor,
    Tyrone Marshall, Scott Palguta - Brian Mullan (Wells Thompson 68), Pablo
    Mastroeni (Ross LaBauex 75), Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith - Conor
    Casey (sent off 29), Quincy Amarikwa (Omar Cummings 46).

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids extended their unbeaten streak to a modest three
games, coming away from PPL Park with a 2-1 victory against Philadelphia
Union on Friday evening. The Rapids have 34 points from 24 games,
sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Rapids took the lead on 35 minutes. A throw-in from winger Brian
    Mullan found Pablo Mastroeni, and he made a neat cutback move to shed a
    defender before smashing a strike into the upper left corner.
  • Then, right before the halftime whistle, Colorado doubled its lead.
    Omar Cummings dribbled up the center of the field on a counterattack and
    made a sharp through pass to fellow speedster Sanna Nyassi, who zipped
    past the Union defense and lashed home a low shot inside the area.
  • Union’s comeback hopes took a turn for the worse in the 64th minute
    when Sheanon Williams received two yellow cards in short order after
    disputing a call.
  • But in stoppage time, the hosts pulled a goal back when Roger Torres
    took a long ball at the edge of the area and skipped his way through
    three defenders before hooking a shot high into the right corner of the
    goal.
  • Rapids head coach Gary Smith made two changes to the team that played
    to a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution at Dick’s Sporting Goods
    Park. Tyrone Marshall came into the back four for Scott Palguta and Omar
    Cummings started up top in place of Caleb Folan.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne,
    Tyrone Marshall (Scott Palguta 70), Drew Moor - Brian Mullan, Pablo
    Mastroeni (Joseph Nane 79), Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson - Sanna
    Nyassi, Omar Cummings (Caleb Folan 62).

TEAM NEWS

  • Sanna Nyassi has scored four goals in the last three games for the
    Rapids, all since being put into the starting lineup as a striker.
  • “Sanna looks so lively at the minute,” Rapids coach Gary Smith said.
    “It is a different role for Omar and there are flashes of very good
    play, but he is still getting used to that lone role. … The pair of them
    are getting involved in moments that change the course of events. Those
    moments are what everybody is striving for, those flashes of
    brilliance. I’d rather have those game-winning goals than stocking
    fillers when you are already 3-0 up.”
  • In the two games where Nyassi and Omar Cummings have formed Colorado’s
    strike partnership, they’ve created four of the Rapids’ six goals.
    Cummings has assisted on all four of Nyassi’s goals.
  • “It’s crazy. We lost our most prolific striker who time and time again
    has delivered for this club,” Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni said.
    “Conor’s injury provides someone else with an opportunity and it was
    [head coach Gary Smith’s] ability to assess the situation and give Sanna
    the chance and he has stolen it and run with it.”
  • After going nearly three months with just two victories – after
    winning the first three games of the season – the Rapids have won three
    times in the last five games and have lost just once in that span.
  • “I think the season’s more of a marathon than a sprint and you know
    you’re going to encounter lulls and you’re going to encounter very high
    moments,” Mastroeni said. “I think this is just a catalyst to
    essentially point us in the right direction.”
  • For a second match in a row, the Rapids saw an opposition player sent off.
  • “We did that last week against New England. We went up 2-1 when they
    were a man down and we didn’t hold on for the win, but this time we
    did,” said goalkeeper Matt Pickens. “Now we got the three (points)
    instead of the one point last week, so I guess you can say we kind of
    learned from that game against New England.”

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew won for the second time in as many games, defeating
Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium. The Crew
have 34 points from 22 games on the season, alone in first place in the
Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Crew took the lead after just five minutes. Robbie Rogers skipped
    through a pair of RSL defenders on the left and sent a centering pass to
    a wide-open Eddie Gaven, who easily slotted the ball past diving
    goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
  • Then five minutes, Columbus doubled its lead. Rogers again played
    provider, lifting a cross from the left flank to forward Tommy
    Heinemann, who headed home inside the right-hand post.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made one change to the team that
    defeated the Portland Timbers 1-0 at Crew Stadium. Justin Meram started
    up top in place of Jeff Cunningham.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-3-1-2): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda, Chad
    Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner - Eddie Gaven, Dejan Rusmir (Eric
    Gehrig 61), Robbie Rogers - Emmanuel Ekpo - Tommy Heinemann, Justin
    Meram (Bernardo Anor 76).

TEAM NEWS

  • Robbie Rogers recorded his first two-assist game of the season,
    collecting his first assist since April 1 in the 2-0 win against Real
    Salt Lake.
  • "I think he caught Robbie Russell by surprise a bit in the first 10
    minutes. We always talk about the final pass and today the final pass
    was there," said Crew head coach Robert Warzycha.
  • Rogers was involved in more than one goal in a game for the first time
    since Aug. 8. 2009, when he had a goal and an assist in the second half
    against San Jose.
  • “It was a bit surprising to be honest,” Rogers said. “We wanted to get
    after them and put them on their heels. They’re a very good defensive
    team and we talked about really testing them. They came out a little
    slow and if we went after them hard we could punish them. They were
    giving me time to turn and go after them.”
  • In his second game in goal replacing the injured William Hesmer, Andy Gruenebaum recorded a second consecutive shutout.
  • Rookie Justin Meram made just his second MLS start, his first as a
    striker, when he partnered Tommy Heinemann in attack. Heinemann was
    making his second consecutive start after going to the bench for three
    games.
  • “We played very good, especially early in the game when we switched
    the point of attack and opened up the game with our speed and good
    thinking,” Warzycha said. “The key was making the field bigger when he
    had the ball, going from one side to the other side and [Justin] Meram
    and Tommy fighting for the balls. They did a good job.”
  • The Crew did not score a goal in the opening 45 minutes until May 18
    this season, and still have scored a league-low six goals in the first
    half (tied with Toronto FC), but hit for two goals before the break for
    the second time this season.
  • "There's still a lot of soccer to be played, obviously, but we
    definitely feel good about the win. The way this team is going right
    now, being able to come here and get a win and getting the win last week
    at home, the team is playing well, so we just got to keep on going,"
    Eddie Gaven said.