By Brian Jennings

Rapids faithful will start their season on Saturday afternoon at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park when David Villa and NYCFC come to town (2:00 p.m. kickoff). Someone pulled a strange scheduling prank that forced fans and players to endure a week off after the first match on the road in Philadelphia on March 7. 

“Every team plays better when you’ve got a rhythm — game after game — you feel better physically. I think (the break) was too early. I don’t know why this happened, but it’s how it is,” Colorado midfielder Marcelo Sarvas said bluntly.

Marcelo Sarvas juggles during midweek training before NYCFC comes to town. Photo by John Babiak.

Marcelo Sarvas juggles during midweek training before NYCFC comes to town. Photo by John Babiak.

An extra week leading up to an important match isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and one school of thought is that the Rapids, with seven new faces in the starting lineup, got a chance to see how players gelled on the road. Coming home with plenty of play on film to break down, the coaches got a chance to fine-tune tactics, according to midfielder Dillon Powers. “Anytime you have a bye week it’s a good time to regroup, and this week has allowed us a chance to tweak some things.”

NYCFC had an impressive showing in their win over New England last weekend on the small field in Yankee Stadium.“(NYCFC is) a good team with a good coach. It’s a little bit hard to say because the field there looks very, very small. Everything was tight, a lot of players in the same place. I don’t know how big the field is,” Power said.

The Rapids will need to use the extra 10 yards in width and length at DSGP to make the visitors from New York chase the match.

“Every game poses a different challenge,” said head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “Teams come in here and they’re going to sit in, and we have to unlock them without exposing ourselves. I told the guys, ‘control what you can.’”

One thing under the control of the players is their physical effort to make opponents feel the thin air in Colorado. Sarvas was a frequent visitor to Colorado while a member of the Galaxy, and he agrees it’s an advantage for the Rapids, saying, “It’s always tough because the altitude counts a lot.”

Dillon Powers aims to fulfill the promise of asphyxiating opponents at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Photo by Marko Babiak.

Dillon Powers aims to fulfill the promise of asphyxiating opponents at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Photo by Marko Babiak.

“This year at home we want to take it to teams,” said Powers. “We’re not happy with a tie. We want to win. The biggest thing that we’ve done is bringing in an ego and working on our fitness. Collectively, we have raised our lactate thresholds so we can run and run and run. I think we can physically run teams into the ground here.”

For a team struggling to get into the win column dating back to last summer, coaches and players have said in the past they want to make DSGP a “fortress.” The Rapids need to take advantage of their home-field altitude and become virtually unbeatable at home as Real Salt Lake has done in recent years. “It’s been said for years that is what we want to do,” said Powers, “so it’s time to take some action and do it.”

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