Published October 28, 2011
| Sports Network
Commerce City, CO – Fresh off its wild card win over the Columbus Crew, the Colorado Rapids will host the Eastern Conference champion Sporting Kansas City at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Sunday to continue its postseason run.
The Rapids are limping into Sunday's clash as Jamie Smith tore his ACL in the win over Columbus to add to Colorado's injury woes.
Pablo Mastroeni was already a question mark for Sunday after sustaining a concussion during a mid-October match. But skipping Thursday's game against Columbus did not help as Mastroeni looks set to miss Sunday's Eastern Conference semifinal.
"Having spoken to the medical staff this morning, he's again going to be a real doubt for the Sunday game," head coach Gary Smith said of Mastroeni. "Unfortunately he seems to be having some ongoing repercussion, and I hope that in a two-game series, the second leg might be more realistic. It's not a nice injury, and one that we all have to be mindful of."
Colorado will now most likely turn to either Wells Thompson or Joseph Nane to play in the center of midfield along with Jeff Larentowicz.
Both Nane and Thompson have played that role before. Thompson offers a strong offensive presence, while Nane is more suited to hold his position and disrupt play from the opposition.
"I think we want to get out and go [against Sporting]," Thompson told MLSsoccer.com. "They've been playing really well lately, but while we're at home we wanna get out and get on top, especially in the first leg of the series."
Whoever plays Sunday will speak to the tactics employed by Gary Smith, who recognizes the threat that Sporting poses.
"Kansas City, in many ways, are a different prospect," Smith told MLSsoccer.com. "They have different players and slightly different styles and formats with how they play, so there are some choices to make."
But Peter Vermes has set up an interesting tilt on Sunday but hinting that Sporting could settle for a draw in Colorado with confidence in winning at home next week.
"I think you want to get your points at home, no doubt, because you know that's where you feel most comfortable," he said. "Obviously, when you go away from home, you want to try to get a result."
Without the injured Conor Casey in the mix, Sporting highlighted Colorado's speedy wing play as the most dangerous threat ahead of their meeting.
"When any team does video they are going to highlight a couple players," Sporting striker Kei Kamara told MLSsoccer.com. "For them to have Omar Cummings, [Sanna] Nyassi and even a [Kosuke] Kimura that go up and down the sideline, those guys are definitely ones you look at when you talk about speed."
Sporting's home record of 9-2-6, paired with its home-field advantage in the second leg, seem to make the Livestrong Sporting Park outfit the favorite on paper, but Vermes knows facing the defending MLS Cup champions will prove to be no easy task.
"We sit here today in a good position, but I really don't think it's any better than anyone else," Vermes told MLSsoccer.com. "We have to play a two- game series with the MLS Cup champion from last year. We know that it's going to be an incredible battle game to game."