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  • Richard Fleming

Jack Price: Rapids Raring To Release The Caged Animal

‘Ready and waiting, for a side we know very well’ is pretty much the approach by the Colorado Rapids as countdown continues to their Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Portland Timbers.

“We’ve done well against them this season,” said skipper Jack Price when asked about the Western Conference Semifinal meeting at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park. “But, like I’ve said before, that doesn’t mean too much going into the playoff game.”

Portland booked a trip to Colorado with a 3-1 win over Minnesota United on Sunday afternoon. It will be their second visit to Commerce City. Giovanni Savarese’s side lost 2-0 on their previous visit, on October 23, though Sebastian Blanco was an unused sub and Dairon Asprilla stepped in for the last 28 minutes.

Blanco and Asprilla have 17 goals and 10 assists between them. You add Felipe Mora (11 goals, 5 assists), and Yimmi Chara (6 goals, 7 assists) and the Rapids will have threats from numerous quarters on Thursday afternoon.

Price added: “We know what their strengths are. We know they’re a good counterattacking team; they have good players up top … but we’ll be ready for them.”

And they will need to be ready for a Timbers team which has a playoff game under its belt. The Rapids produced a performance not unlike the type they will need, when destroying LAFC’s postseason hopes in the final game of the regular season.

By the time the Rapids walk out at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park it will be 18 days since that LAFC game, and the concern will be about how swiftly the Rapids can settle and bring the intensity.

“We should be fresh,” admitted Price. “Of course, they’ve got one playoff game under their belt so they’ll be used to that, but I can see by training that we’re ready to go. We’re looking sharp.

“You just want to let the animal out of the cage. I think it’s been like that all week. We’re just raring to go as a team; you can tell, and we’re looking forward to it.”

This is a first home playoff game for the Rapids since losing 1-0 at home to Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship game, an occasion when then head coach Pablo Mastroeni strayed tactically from what had worked for his side, and they came unstuck.

Five years on, and we wait to see how the Rapids set up under Robin Fraser, a finalist for MLS Coach of the Year. He looked on as his players appeared overwhelmed in the playoffs last year, stumbling to a 3-0 loss at Minnesota United, but later insisted that if his players improved by two per cent for 2021 then they would be a force to be reckoned with.

Asked how far this team has come in 12 months, Englishman Price said: “I think we’re more than two per cent better. Obviously, top of the West. You can’t get much better than that at the moment.

“We’ve come a long way, but - like I said - it doesn’t really mean too much going into Thursday, so we know we need to continue to play together as a group.”

Though the Rapids defeated Minnesota three times this season, Price still feels they can draw on last year’s playoff loss as a driving force.

He told me: “We were very disappointed with the way we capitulated in that game. We opened up, even at 1-0, but I think we’ve learnt from that.

“Even at times this season we don’t get stretched as much so I think that’s going to be key, especially against Portland, who like to counterattack.”

Price continued: “So, I think it’s done us well to have had that game last season, and not do so well going into this year.”

Whatever it takes.

About the author: Since 2013, Richard Fleming has been the TV commentator and host, covering the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer. During 16 years with the BBC, he covered two FIFA World Cups, five Africa Cup of Nations, a FIFA Confederations Cup, and a European Championship. He has also covered UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, and football at all levels of the game during more than 30 years covering the sport.

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