Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rapids Start Champions League Play Tomorrow Night!

Tomorrow night Colorado plays its first meaningful international match since facing Leon in the preliminary round of the old CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998. The first opponent is El Salvador's Isidro Metapan, who qualified for the Champions League by winning the El Salvadorian 2010 Apertura. Kickoff at the Dick tomorrow is an unusual 8pm for TV, which means the kegs will be breached at 5:30 and the grills fired up at 6 for the tailgate.

Isidro has won 5 of the last 8 seasons if the Primera Division but has not fared well on the international stage. They've only made it to the group stage once, by directly qualifying in 2009-10, and finished last in the group with 3 points and a -19 goal differential. They have lost every road game in their history of Champions League play, while being outscored 15-2. What little I've found about the current team is that they are very organized defensively but lack firepower going forward.

The other game in Group B just finished and Santos Laguna beat Real Espana 3-2 at home. That's a pretty good result for us, as I think the best outcome is for Santos Laguna and Colorado to take as many points as possible off the other two teams. Santos did that, but they had to work all game to get the win and they only got a +1 goal differential out of it.

I'm not going to do a starting XI prediction or a key to the game for this one, as that really depends on how seriously the Rapids are planning to take this competition. Gary Smith said today that he wants to win the CCL, but GS is becoming a master of saying the right thing to the press but not really worrying about what he said when it comes time to make decisions. From that article I expect our normal 5-man defensive group to start and to see Cyanide up front, but the midfield 4 could have some surprises.

Prediction: 1-0 Rapids win, goal by Cummings. I expect this to be a low scoring game and I'd be shocked if there were more than 3 goals in this one. Two apparently tough defenses means that opportunities are going to be rare. Cyanide's speed will combine to expose the Metapan defense once though, and that will be enough to get the Rapids off on the right foot in CCL play.

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