Preview: Colorado set to host playoff rival Columbus
COLORADO RAPIDS vs COLUMBUS CREW
DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PARK, Commerce City, Colo.
March 10, 2012 (WEEK 1, MLS Game #1)
4 p.m. MT (Altitude/FS-OH)
Two clubs that have seen each other in the MLS Cup Playoffs each of the past two seasons kick off the 2012 season against each other when the Colorado Rapids entertain the Columbus Crew. Oscar Pareja is the new man in charge of the Rapids, taking over just a season removed from the club's first MLS Cup title. The Crew have seen their season ended each of the last two years by Colorado, including last year in Commerce City in a wild-card match.
REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Yader Reyes
MLS Career: 57 games; FC/gm: 24.4; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 12; pens: 9
- COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: FW Conor Casey (L achilles tear); MF Jamie Smith (R ACL tear); DF Anthony Wallace (L achilles tear); DOUBTFUL: DF Hunter Freeman (R ankle arthroscopy)
- COLUMBUS CREW -- OUT: DF Rich Balchan (sports hernia surgery); FW Ben Speas (sports hernia surgery); DF Julius James (shoulder surgery); QUESTIONABLE: FW Justin Meram (R ankle sprain); GK William Hesmer (R ankle sprain); MF Cole Grossman (R hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
ALL-TIME (35 meetings): Rapids 16 wins (2 shootout), 48 goals ... Crew 11 wins (1 shootout), 44 goals ... Ties 8
AT COLORADO (17 meetings): Rapids 10 wins (1 shootout), 20 goals ... Crew 3 wins (0 shootout), 13 goals ... Ties 4
LAST YEAR (MLS):
6/26: CLB 4, COL 1 (Gaven 12; Mendoza 18, 48; Heinemann 57 - Casey 5)
8/5: COL 2, CLB 0 (Mullan 54; Cummings 79)
- This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
- The teams have met each of the last two years in the MLS Cup Playoffs, with the Rapids advancing on both occasions. In 2011, an Omar Cummings goal was the difference as Colorado won 1-0 at home in a wild-card match.
- The Rapids have won the last two league meetings at Dick's Sporting Goods Park - and last four in all competitions. That snapped a three-year winless streak against the Crew at home, with losses coming in 2008 and '09.
- Coaches record: Oscar Pareja vs. CLB: first game ... Robert Warzycha vs. COL: P6 W3 L2 D1
Oscar Pareja makes his debut as an MLS head coach, having replaced Gary Smith in charge of the Colorado Rapids. A year after guiding the Rapids to the MLS Cup title, Smith saw the Rapids finish fifth in the Western Conference and defeat Columbus in a wild-card match before falling to Sporting Kansas City.
- The Rapids concluded their preseason schedule with a 4-0 victory against local college Colorado School of Mines on Feb. 29 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Rookie Tony Cascio continued his goalscoring, getting two goals, along with offseason signing Jaime Castrillon.
- Here's the Rapids team: Matt Pickens, Luis Zapata, Tyrone Marshall, Marvell Wynne (Scott Palguta 70), Kosuke Kimura, Jeff Larentowicz (Kohei Yamada 75), Pablo Mastroeni, Jaime Castrillon (Andre Akpan 68), Tony Cascio (Wells Thompson 63), Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 46), Martin Rivero (Brian Mullan 58)
- The Rapids played in the Hawaiian Islands Invitational at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. After falling 2-1 to Japan's Yokohama FC in the opening match, Tony Cascio scored the game's only goal for a 1-0 win against Melbourne Heart (Australia) in the consolation game.
- "We wanted to give the team more minutes, more competition, [and] more international competition," head coach Oscar Pareja said Tuesday. "It was a tremendous week. The first game was where we couldn't put things together, the second game was probably the result of the work the boys have been putting together. I thought the effort was there."
- Here's the Rapids team vs. Melbourne: Steward Ceus, Luis Zapata (Scott Palguta 57), Drew Moor (Tyrone Marshall 46), Marvell Wynne, Kosuke Kimura, Jeff Larentowicz (Joseph Nane 46), Pablo Mastroeni (Ross LaBauex 42), Jaime Castrillon (Kohei Yamada 75), Tony Cascio (Andre Akpan 81), Quincy Amarikwa, Brian Mullan
- Pareja will not have two key attacking options for First Kick, with winger Jamie Smith and striker Conor Casey still ruled out.
- "They're not ready, but they're doing very well," Pareja said. "I'm happy and proud of the job they have done and the job that our medical department and trainers have put in."
- Casey is targeting the end of March for his return to action. "The Achilles is good, it's coming along," he said. "I'm hoping to be back training in a couple weeks."
- In addition, fullback Hunter Freeman is not expected to return until the end of the month after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle in late February.
- After returning to Colorado, the Rapids suffered a big blow when fullback Anthony Wallace suffered a torn Achilles tendon in training and is expected to miss 6-9 months.
- With the injuries to the back line, there is a chance Drew Moor could shift from center back to left back, but it's more likely Panamanian international Luis Zapata will start at left back.
- Andre Akpan or Quincy Amarikwa are expected to start in place of Casey up top, while Jaime Castrillon will start in Smith's spot in the midfield.
- The Rapids also got a first look at midfield acquisition Martin Rivero in match against School of Mines, after the product of Argentinean second-division side Rosario Central arrived in Colorado the day before.
- "I felt (the altitude) a little bit. But I felt good, happy. I hope with the next few practices I'll get used to it," Rivero said. "[Practices] are very different. Here you run a lot more, and over there, they ask us to have the ball a lot more. In Argentina, we were doing very well, but I hope I can repeat my performance from my last six months over here."
- IN: D Hunter Freeman (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Houston); M Tony Cascio (1/12: SuperDraft); M Kohei Yamada (1/17: supplemental draft); G Joel Helmick (1/17: supplemental draft); M Jaime Castrillon (1/25: free/Independiente Medell"n); M Mart"n Rivero (2/16: loan/Rosario Central); D Luis Zapata (2/24: free)
- OUT: M Sanna Nyassi (11/23: expansion draft); D Mike Holody (11/30: option declined); D Danny Earls (11/30: option declined); D Miguel Comminges (11/30: option declined); F Caleb Folan (2/3: released); F Macoumba Kandji (2/8: trade to Houston)
Robert Warzycha begins his fourth season in charge of the Columbus Crew against the team that has ended his club's fortunes each of the last two seasons. A year ago, the Crew finished fourth in the Eastern Conference before falling 1-0 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in a wild-card match.
- The Crew saw their final preseason match, the finale of the Carolina Challenge Cup against D.C. United in Charleston, S.C., cancelled because of inclement weather.
- The game was expected to give Crew head coach the opportunity to finally put a first-choice XI on the field: goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, the back four of Sebastian Miranda, Danny O'Rourke, Chad Marshall and Carlos Mendes, Tony Tchani in the holding midfield role with Eddie Gaven, Kirk Urso and Dilly Duka ahead of him; and Milovan Mirosevic playing behind forward Emilio Renteria.
- "This was our final game," Warzycha said. "It was the most important one in the preseason for us. We tried different formations. We tried different players. It came down to today and 90 minutes for a lineup that would start Saturday. That's basically what we were missing tonight."
- The Crew started the Carolina Challenge Cup with a 2-2 draw against USL Pro League side Charleston Battery, then lost to the Chicago Fire when the game's lone goal came 10 minutes from the end by Federico Puppo.
- Here's the Crew team vs. Chicago: Andy Gruenebaum, Sebastian Miranda (Josh Williams, 46), Chad Marshall (Eric Gehrig, 46), Danny O'Rourke (Korey Veeder, 82), Nemanja Vukovic* (Aaron Horton, 73), Eddie Gaven (Shaun Francis, 46), Tony Tchani (Kirk Urso, 82), Milovan Mirosevic (Olman Vargas, 46), Stephane Auvray* (Kevan George, 64), Ethan Finlay, Emilio Renteria (Tommy Heinemann, 46)
- The Crew were hit by injuries throughout their preseason. Midfielders Eddie Gaven (knee), Danny O'Rourke (knee), Rich Balchan (sports hernia) and Dilly Duka (ankle) all were sidelined in Florida and the span before the trip to South Carolina, while goalkeeper William Hesmer (sprained ankle) did not play in any preseason matches.
- Both Gaven and defender Chad Marshall were able to return for what turned out to be the final preseason match against Chicago.
- "Look at all the new guys we have," Warzycha said. "It's not because we're trying to change the team. It's because we have injuries."
- With O'Rourke and Balchan still sidelined, rookie Kirk Urso - the 10th overall selection in Supplemental Draft out of the University of North Carolina - is likely to start in central midfield against Colorado.
- "We're playing kind of a triangle and I'm the holding mid," Urso said. "In college we actually played three flat. I've never really played the [defensive] midfield spot, but I feel comfortable there." Said Warzycha: "Any rookie starting is a surprise for any team. I watched him play for his college team. Sometimes he didn't have his best game but he always worked. That's what people appreciate."
- IN: D Carlos Mendes (12/5: Re-Entry Stage 1/New York); G Matt Lampson (12/15: Homegrown); M Milovan Mirosevic (1/4: free/Universidad Catolica); F Olman Vargas (1/6: free/Club Herediano); F Ben Speas (1/11: Homegrown); F Ethan Finlay (1/12: SuperDraft); D Aubrey Perry (1/12: SuperDraft); M Kevan George (1/12: SuperDraft): M Kirk Urso (1/17: supplemental draft); D Jamie Finch (1/17: supplemental draft)
- OUT: D Josh Gardner (11/23: expansion draft); M Santiago Prim (11/23: waived); D Dejan Rusmir (11/23: waived); F AndrÈs Mendoza (12/6: option declined); M Kevin Burns (12/12: option declined); F Jeff Cunningham (12/12: option declined); M Robbie Rogers (1/11: free/Leeds United); M Emmanuel Ekpo (2/23: free/Molde)