Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Colorado Tries To Qualify for CCL Quarterfinals

Tomorrow night the Rapids play their final group stage game of the Champions League in Torreon, Mexico against Santos Laguna. With a win Colorado will clinch 2nd place in the group and a spot in the quarterfinals. With an extremely unlikely 4 goal win they will win the group. A draw or loss does not eliminate them, but it leaves their fate in the hands of Real Espana and Isidro Metapan who play on Thursday. A draw between them would allow the Rapids to finish in 2nd regardless of their result against Santos.

Colorado got beat down 4-1 in their home match against Santos with a lineup that was half starters and half reserves. The Rapids have brought most of their starters with them to Mexico. Other than Pablo and Smith, who are recovering from injury, the only other starters that didn't travel were Mullan and Pickens. There are still enough reserves on the trip that none of the starters have to play, but on first appearance it seems like Colorado is going all out for the win.

It won't be easy though. Santos clearly out-played the Rapids in September. Even though Colorado didn't play well the Mexicans would have beaten any MLS team on that night. If that team shows up again the Rapids stand no chance, regardless of who they use. There are two pieces of good news though. First, Santos Laguna has just moved to the top of the table in their domestic competition and has a good chance to extend that lead on the road this weekend. Second, they've already qualified for the quarterfinals of the CCL and they'll win the group as long as they don't lose to the Rapids by 4 or more. Since the Rapids only need a win to qualify they won't risk the result and try to score more if they get a comfortable lead. This may lead the home side to start some reserves and/or not put a high priority on the result.

Because of the huge question marks around both starting lineups I'm not going to try to make a prediction. If Santos rolls out their starters there's little to no chance the Rapids win. If they go with a largely reserve lineup though, there's a opening for Colorado to take advantage of. Their best chance is to score early and shock Santos Laguna. If the Rapids can get an early lead and keep the pressure up Laguna may fold up shop and just do enough not to finish 2nd in the group.

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