Photo by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
The Colorado Rapids could advance to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League by winning both of their last two group matches. Even so, it looks like club is throwing in the towel on its tournament run.
Colorado sent a reserve-heavy squad to face Isidro Metapan in El Salvador for Wednesday's match, and head coach Gary Smith didn't make the trip, either, instead leaving assistant coach Steve Guppy to handle the team.
The Rapids are currently in fourth place in Group B (tied for third on points but behind on goal differential), but they still control their own destiny. Granted, the odds on the Rapids winning road matches against Metapan and Santos Laguna are long considering the team's current form, but the fact remains that advancing is still a possibility. Colorado already beat Metapan in their earlier group meeting at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
In order for the Rapids to repeat that performance on Wednesday and avoid elimination — which would occur with a loss — they'll have to get the most out of Omar Cummings, Mac Kandji, Wells Thompson and Tyrone Marshall, who are the few regular/semi-regular starters who made the trip.
Among the players being held back are Pablo Mastroeni, Jeff Larentowicz, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Matt Pickens, Caleb Folan, Kosuke Kimura and Sanna Nyassi.
The tactic isn't a huge surprise after Smith revealed that the club was turning its focus to league play and defending its MLS Cup title following Colorado's 2-1 loss to Real Espana in its last CCL match.
Colorado faces FC Dallas in an MLS Cup rematch this weekend hoping to snap a five-match winless streak in league play while fortifying its place in the postseason.
"We're teetering on the edge in both competitions," Smith said in an interview on the Rapids' website. "The more senior players are staying here, so I've leaned slightly toward the domestic competition, but I would only say slightly.
"The difficulties in trying to put two competitive teams out, the fact that we play away, the long travel and the game that will unfold in Metapán will be very different than the one at home against Dallas. We have to face up to those challenges and I have to make a decision on where and how these players are going to be implemented.
"I think by offering the opportunity to our senior players to focus very firmly on the MLS game, I hope to get a little bit more out of them, of course. A long journey and a very difficult game midweek is certainly going to do no good to our form returning domestically. So that has been a little bit more of a focus, and avoiding injuries of course."
What do you think of the Rapids taking a mostly reserve team to a CCL match with the team not yet eliminated? Do you agree with Smith's decisions?
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