COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – When Europe recently played and beat the US team in golf’s Ryder Cup, European captain Colin Montgomerie reportedly banned his players from tweeting in an effort to focus their minds completely on the task at hand.
Colorado Rapids coach Gary Smith has a similar battle with technology and player focus when his side takes on the LA Galaxy on Saturday.
The Kansas City Wizards, the Rapids’ rivals for the final MLS Cup Playoffs berth, will have finished their game on Saturday against the New England Revolution before the Rapids even take the pitch. KC must win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Rapids, meanwhile, need to get a point from their last two matches to earn a postseason spot.
So how will Smith deal with the fact that some of his players will want to know the KC result and some won’t?
“I’ll just be asking them to be sensible about it,” Smith said at training on Thursday, acknowledging there are risks in knowing the Kansas City score.
Anything less than a Wizards win could over-relax the Rapids players while a victory could make them tighten up.
“One way or the other, you are going to have an emotion swing,” Smith added. “I’ll be asking the guys to focus on the game, to stay away from that score line as much as possible. I’ll be asking them for a playoff performance.”
The Rapids are looking to keep the momentum of recent weeks going as they progress toward the postseason. The disappointing loss to D.C. United earlier this month aside, Colorado have played very well in the last two months, particularly in earning consecutive draws on the road against playoff teams Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas, both games the Rapids could have won.
“The players are in good spirits,” Smith said. “The better teams have drawn more out of the group and we have played with real passion and drive. They should be confident going into this weekend.”
Confidence seems key at this point. The Rapids have crashed out of playoff contention on the last day of the regular season more than once in recent years, and Smith is looking to his veterans to ensure the whole side overcomes any possible negative mindset.
“For the guys like Pablo [Mastroeni] and Conor [Casey], they have seen it slip away before,” Smith said. “Now they have the determination to make it a reality. They look around the group and think we can do some damage when we are in there. Whoever they play against, the group will pose some real problems for those postseason games.”