Monday, October 5, 2009

Looking Over Their Shoulders

Dallas' game with San Jose on Wednesday could help decide the Rapids' playoff hopes. If the streaking Hoops conjure up another win against the also improving San Jose Earthquakes, they will still be in the playoff hunt. If they lose, they will be eliminated from the postseason, presumably making Colorado's trip to Texas October 17 a little easier for the Burgundy and Blue.
That is what it has come down to. Worrying about what happens to the other teams in contention. The Rapids, by only drawing their last four games and not scoring in open play during that time, are making things difficult for themselves. Gary Smith has been saying for some while now that 42 points should be enough but it increasingly looks as if at least one more point than that will be needed, meaning the Rapids have to win one of their remaining two road games. That is why this week's game between Dallas and San Jose appears so important.
Maybe the week off this week will help the team get out of its rut. It's interesting to note that Smith has called the team into practice this week as if there is a game this weekend. No time off at such a crucial juncture. As usual, he did not criticize the team's effort at the weekend but he did say they still have some way to go to create a consistent winning mentality. Not surprising given that the Rapids have not been in the playoffs for two years. This is severe gut check time and everyone will need to look at the example of veterans like Pablo Mastroeni to try and replicate the heart needed. The captain has been the best player on the field by far in the past two games since returning from suspension and everyone needs to follow his example in these last two games.
Two of those not able to follow Mastroeni will be Julien Baudet and Mehdi Ballouchy. Both of these players are out for the Dallas game, Ballouchy very unluckily, Baudet not quite so. Although Baudet clearly did not elbow Kheli Dube, it wasn't the brightest thing to do to raise his hand and Gary Smith wasn't too impressed with his central defender after the game. Fortunately, Cory Gibbs looks likely to be fit again in time for the Dallas game and could take Baudet's place.
In other injury news, Matt Pickens is making good progress but the most surprising news is that Jamie Smith may be able to play some part in the postseason. The winger is able to cross balls and so, presumably, could factor in some kind of training this week. Of course, if the Rapids fail on the road in Dallas or Salt Lake, that could all be a moot point.

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