Even if Real Salt Lake win in Toronto (unlikely, but you never know), the Colorado Rapids can still clinch a playoff position tonight with a win in Dallas if New England fail to win their game. The beauty is that Gary Smith will know the results of both the Salt Lake and New England games before the kickoff tonight against FC Dallas. The team would know exactly what it has to do and their destiny would be in their hands. Even if they can't clinch it tonight, they will still know that a win almost guarantees them a place in the postseason. Smith said a win will mean he is smoking cigars and drinking brandy tonight in some Dallas hotel. The team is almost there but it will be a very tough game against a streaking Dallas who still have an outside chance at reaching the playoffs after a great run in recent weeks.
A draw would still be a good result. Perhaps as important would be some goals from open play. Offensively, the Rapids have been ineffective in recent weeks, relying on Conor Casey's penalty kicks to scrounge points here and there. Tonight, they will rely on service from the wings in the form of regular fullbacks, Jordan Harvey and Kosuke Kimura. I think you are going to see a back three (Gibbs, Moor and Palguta) with Pablo Mastroeni playing just in front of them. With Kimura and Harvey in midfield will be Nick LaBrocca and Pat Noonan (a huge game for Noonan tonight) as the team will miss Mehdi Ballouchy through suspension. Omar Cummings and Casey will be upfront. So, it won't be a 3-5-2 that Smith really doesn't like all that much, more of a 3-1-4-2. Width in attack but less vulnerability for the defense. Despite the dilemmas posed by a returning to fitness Matt Pickens, I think Preston Burpo will be in goal. Put it this way. It was Burpo training yesterday with the first team while Pickens worked separately with goalkeeping coach, David Kramer, and the other reserve goalies.
A huge, huge game. Let's hope the team gives the best possible account of itself and we gain something from the trip.