Doug Pensinger - Getty Images
Keys for the Colorado Rapids as they hope to spoil the heck out of the end of the season for the San Jose Earthquakes.
The playoff dream may be dead for the Colorado Rapids, but they sure have a good chance to do some spoiling before the season is over. They could potentially be the catalyst to keep the San Jose Earthquakes away from the Supporters' Shield as well as keeping the Houston Dynamo out of the playoffs entirely if they can string together a few wins at the end of the season.
Start small though, let's get past the Quakes before we worry about anything else.
San Jose has won most of their games in the old 'goonie time' fashion, looking more impressive in the last five minutes of most games than they do in the preceding 87 or so. Quite frankly, just about everyone (including the league itself!) is sick of it, so it's up to Colorado to put a stop to it!
Wait, it's up to the Rapids to take down one of the best teams in the league? Well, that usually ends well. Maybe they can do it without the pressure of trying to get playoff points on their backs though. Stranger things have happened.
Kick, Punch (It's All In The Mind) - No matter what Frank Yallop says, the Earthquakes know how to play dirty. They bite, smack and knee-punch all day long, get into teams heads and then beat them late when they're beat down and tired. Can't really complain about that, it's the sort of ball that Gary Smith clearly wanted to play with the team at their best -- the guy tried to sign Steven Lenhart himself! -- but San Jose keeps getting away with it.
How to deal with that? Fight back. Smack em back, headbutt Lenhart at every opportunity and allow Conor Casey to kick defenders more than he's kicking the ball. What's there to lose at this point, really? (Shit, maybe they should start Tyrone Marshall after all to get some thug life back in the starting XI.)
Thomas - Well, there's one thing about this Rapids team that the Quakes haven't ever seen before, Hendry Thomas. The Honduran has been nothing short of a wizard for the Rapids in the passing game, and has notably cut down on the number of easy counter-attacks that opposing teams have been sapping from the Rapids all season long. Guess how Goonie time usually works? Yeah, counter attacks and set pieces. We'll see if Thomas alone can help out the Rapids in that category, but it certainly can't hurt.
Play Deep - One of the biggest mistakes that Oscar Pareja has made all year was to play a high line against San Jose in their last game, a 4-1 loss. It's a technique that can work if you've got the personnel to do it, but the Rapids have a more attack minded set of fullbacks and a slow enough center back in Drew Moor that it just led to more pain than pressure. Pareja would do well, no matter who he has on the pitch, to play as deep as possible, especially with Hendry now roaming the midfield. He should be able to compensate for the extra playing space that playing a deep line allows.