This is going to be a huge match for the Colorado Rapids in terms of getting their confidence up for the road trip ahead as well as the huge number of games the team will be playing in May and July. With injuries still taking their toll all over the pitch for this squad it might be another patchwork team that comes out to play against the Houston Dynamo today in the second road mid-week game for the team this season.
Here's three keys the Rapids can follow in order to get at least a draw and perhaps a surprising three points out of the orange wasteland.Communication - The Rapids could very easily have won that game earlier in the week against the Chicago Fire. They controlled the tempo, controlled the possession and certainly had a number of great runs that could have turned into chances on goal... if it weren't for some unfortunately lack-luster communication between the players on the team. When the unit is at completely full strength the Rapids are one of the most solid teams in the league communication-wise but when you're throwing Andre Akpan up top with Jamie Smith and Omar Cummings there's bound to be some errors. Tyrone Marshall on defense had a couple of screw ups because he wasn't used to the communication in the back-line last week either. Hopefully some regulars or at least semi-regulars like Quincy Amarikwa and Marvell Wynne will be back in the team's starting XI today, that certainly can't hurt matters.
Set Pieces - Set pieces are some of the easiest ways to get goals in the game of football, and the Rapids plain and simply suck at doing so. Correct me if I'm wrong but I can't remember a single set piece that has directly turned into a Rapids goal except for maybe after the ball has already gone into play. Combine that with the Rapids love of giving other teams goals on set pieces - see Real Salt Lake and Portland's only goal in the season opener - and you have a recipe for disaster as the year goes on. Jamie Smith is a very good player when it comes to getting the ball into the box, so perhaps it's just luck holding the Rapids back? Either way, the Rapids always struggle scoring a bit on the road and the easiest way to get a couple on the board is to figure out how those free kicks and corner kicks into the back of the net.
Omar Cummings - This kind of ties in to the first of the three keys but Omar Cummings since scoring that fourth goal against DC United has been pretty much invisible. He had the best chance of the game by anyone not named Akpan against Chicago with a beautiful curling shot that would have stuck into the top corner if not for a great Conway save, but other than that has suffered from his usual syndrome of looking to pass rather than shoot for the majority of the times he goes forward. Without his usual big scorer Conor Casey up top with him - Caleb Folan simply can't match the brilliance that Casey-Cummings can string together because of their vast experience together - he has faced problems with that strategy, more-so than usual. Cummings needs to get over his shooting phobia and take over this offense. He's got to show everyone that he's still one of the top class players in MLS.