SEATTLE - JULY 16: Pablo Mastroeni #25 of the Colorado Rapids argues with the referee during the game against the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on July 16, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
The Colorado Rapids faltered in their first game against Western competition last weekend when they lost 2-0 to Real Salt Lake. They'll have just as tough a test, again on the road, when they take on the Seattle Sounders on Saturday at Century Link Field.
The Rapids have never won a game in Seattle since the Sounders came into the league in 2009, with last year's loss being especially stinging since it was the game when the Rapids lost Conor Casey thanks to a slippery rug that the Sounders put on their usual turf.
Regardless, here's three keys for the Rapids if they want to pull out their first ever win at the CLink.
Don't Panic - Part of the problem against RSL was that the team seemed like they were trying to play in the 4-3-3 style but with kind of a Gary Smith mentality. They were bunkering back, looking for long balls up to the forwards instead of possessing in the midfield etc. It didn't work against the pretty passing and solid defense of RSL, and the Rapids would probably have been better off had they just gone with the game they'd been playing all season long. Bunker ball won't work against the Sounders either, so changing the overall game play simply because the Sounders are a good team would perhaps be a mistake going into Saturday.
Give It To Rivero - Martin Rivero didn't touch the ball against Real Salt Lake nearly as much as he did against the Chicago Fire, and he looked almost invisible as a result. He did have some good play when the ball was at his foot but if your #10 doesn't get the rock he can't do much with it. The Rapids need to pump the ball through Rivero on Saturday like they did against Chicago, especially if Omar Cummings is still manning the top position. Speaking of which...
MOVE OMAR DAMNIT - Seriously, Omar Cummings might be trying to adjust to his new role in the 4-3-3 as the target man up front, but until we see a good game from him in the position I will remain unconvinced that he can do it. He's just not built for that position, move him out to the side and I think the offense will get an immediate and noticeable boost in just about every manner.
Of course, the guy he might replace could be Brian Mullan and that's a whole other can of worms that I don't think any of us want to get into right now.