COMMERCE CITY CO - AUGUST 28: Jamie Smith #20 of the Colorado Rapids strikes the ball to score in the second minute in front of Danny Cruz #5 the Houston Dynamo during MLS action at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on August 28 2010 in Commerce City Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Rapids are beginning a stretch of 17 games in 87 days today. That's about a game every five days from now until the end of July, so the Rapids are going to need to stay healthy and get as many points on the road as they can to assure themselves of a playoff spot in the increasingly tightening Western conference. While games against conference rivals are undoubtedly a bit more important than games like this, they can get off to a rolling start on their three game roadtrip with a good result against the Houston Dynamo today.
Injuries have been hampering the Rapids all season long thus far and as I said earlier in the day, it's very likely that a good chunk of those players will be back either in the line-up or just back on the bench for the game today. The ideal situation would include Conor Casey as one of those people, since the striker situation desperately needs some solidarity after the revolving door of pain we've seen the last few games. If not I expect to see the usual Caleb Folan/Omar Cummings starting two up top, or perhaps another edition of Andre Akpan, currently the hottest striker on the Rapids with his performance against the Fire. According to Nick Thomas, Sanna Nyassi is hurt at the moment so it's likely that Wells Thompson will get his second start of the year after his 90 minutes against Real Salt Lake. Naturally, Brian Mullan won't be on the pitch as he serves the second of his ten games suspended.
Colorado's last trip to Houston ended in a 2-2 draw after a late Rapids goal by Conor Casey snagged the draw for them. They proceeded to beat Houston 3-0 in Colorado later, but this Houston team is far better than the one they saw last season. Will Bruin is an early leader in the rookie of the year race with four goals and a hat trick on the season. If the Rapids want to win this game they'll probably need to find a way to solve impressive goalkeeper Tally Hall as well, one of the best keepers in the league this season. With the finishing being one of the bigger problems for the team in the last few games this could pose a problem. The defense will probably need to be on their A game for this one. Wells Thompson and his defensive chops starting in the midfield should quell a little of their offensive power, specifically with Brad Davis having such a great season so far.
This isn't necessarily an important three points for the Rapids to get this early in the season against a tough team on the road, but getting draws in games like this at the very least will be essential to the Rapids late season success.