Monday, September 12, 2011

Rapids Biggest CCL Game Tomorrow

Colorado hosts Santos Laguna of the Mexican League tomorrow. This is the biggest CCL match the Rapids will play, as Santos is by far the best team in the group but a win tomorrow would put Colorado in the driver's seat for advancing into the knockout rounds. Game time tomorrow at the Dick is 8pm and the game will be on FOX Soccer Channel. Note to season ticket holders on the East side of the stadium (which would be everyone in Class VI, BSG, and the Pid Army), the East side of the stadium has been given to the Santos fans. You should have been contacted to be re-seated on the West side. If not, contact your ticket rep. Tailgate tomorrow starts at 5:30, with fish tacos on the menu!

Santos Laguna got into the CCL by being the runner-up of the 2010 Apertura season. They beat Olimpia of Honduras by an aggregate 4-3 score in the preliminary round and have beaten Real Espana at home 3-2 and lost to Isidro Metapan on the road 2-0. Santos were in the 2010-11 CCL where they were knocked out by Cruz Azul in the quarterfinals and in the 2008-09 CCL where they were knocked out by eventual champion Alante in the semifinals. They are currently 15th (of 18 teams) in the Mexican Clasura and just drew a tough game against Chivas on Saturday.

Despite their league struggles, both teams have stated that they are going to play the strongest lineups they can. Of course we've heard that before from Gary Smith. Hopefully he realizes this is the critical game of the CCL campaign. The Rapids have to be favored to beat Real Espana at the Dick next week, so a win tomorrow night would give Colorado a very good chance to get to 10 points by the end of Round 4, which would mean the only way they wouldn't advance would be the unlikely scenario of losing a 3-way tiebreaker at 10 points. That would mean the Rapids could go into the last two rounds without a lot of pressure, which is good since those are road games in El Salvador and Mexico, tough places to get a result.

Despite Gary Smith's statement, I expect to see a lineup of some starters and some reserves. I wouldn't be shocked to see Marshall, Mastroeni or Larentowicz, Mullan, and Nyassi not starting. Moor will start after being forced to sit out on Friday, and I assume that Cummings limited play on Friday will allow him to start. Against a tough team like Mexico I assume Pickens will get the nod over Ceus.

Prediction: 1-1 draw. I think a full strength Rapids side could beat Santos, but I don't think Gary smith will put out a full strength side. Because of that the Rapids will be pushed to their limit but they will manage to hang on for a draw. This will leave Colorado in the position of needing to beat Isidro Metapan on the road in order to advance.

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