Let's not discuss how those last two games went for the Rapids, OK? (Man, I seem to be using that line a lot more this season than I did the past two.) Seriously though, two straight losses to Western Conference competition is no bueno, and they'll need to start picking up the pace very quickly if they want to escape 'hell month' with any real aspirations of a playoff berth.
Fortunately, the easiest game on the schedule -- 'easiest' of course coming with a grain of salt, this is MLS -- is next in line as road-weary FC Dallas comes to Commerce City. They don't have any road wins yet this season, which is pretty bad. Of course, the Rapids, at home or on the road, have been maddeningly inconsistent this season. So who the hell knows how this will go?
Anyway, here's three keys to success for the Rapids.Mark Out David Ferreira - There's a reason why David Ferreira was the most fouled player in the league back in 2010, and in fact has always been near the top of that category. Guy's pretty damn good. The Rapids don't play the same style of hard-nosed ball that saw them put two defensive midfielders in the middle of the park, but they still have Jeff Larentowicz in the middle and he's going to be tasked with covering the roaming playmaker. If Martin Rivero and Jaime Castrillon can help out that will help as well, but it's going to be important for Jeff to keep his composure when the 2010 MVP is at his heels.
I think we all remember what happened when Pablo Mastroeni got injured last season and Joseph Nane was left marking him all game. Again, let's not get into that.
Casey/Cummings? - Oscar Pareja tried something experimental last game when he played a 4-1-4-1 formation. Needless to say, it didn't work. Minus a few wonderful showings by the 4-3-3 formation that Pareja has tried out, the best success seems to have come from his 4-4-2 diamond formation.
After Omar Cummings came back from two disappointing showings with a goal against Seattle, he should have earned his way back into the lineup to play atop with Conor Casey in that formation, Pareja's favored formation at home recently. Dallas' back line has been ravaged by injury and inconsistent play, so those two will have a chance at a big game. Then again, they also just held the San Jose Earthquakes in check. (MLS!!)
Set Pieces - A lot of the Rapids goals this season have come from some excellent execution on set pieces. We know what they look like when they're good, with Martin Rivero providing electric moments on corner kicks and free kicks. Unfortunately, against Seattle we saw what they looked like when they were bad and it was dismal. Either Rivero or Jamie Smith will need to put the best service into the box they can because the Rapids have shown that scoring from open play just isn't their jive this season.
Oh yeah, and they might want to start defending well on opposing set pieces as well. Ho-hum.