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Several news outlets are predicting the Colorado Rapids will have an advantage over the Columbus Crew in tonight’s first-ever playoff game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and the Rapids appear confident heading into the matchup. “Our last three or four games have been playoff-like games,” Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz explains to The Denver Post. “We’ve had a ton of pressure, considering we hadn’t qualified for the playoffs [yet].”
And Larentowicz knows what it takes to get by under the pressure. Although he’s new to the Rapids—arriving in Colorado earlier this year via trade—Larentowicz has played in two Major League Soccer Cup finals with the New England Revolution. The Rapids also have extended playoff experience in midfielder Brian Mullan, who came over in a trade six weeks ago from the Houston Dynamo and who’s played on four MLS Cup champion teams. There’s also goalkeeper Matt Pickens, who played for Chicago Fire playoff teams in 2006 and 2007.
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The Rapids will need all that experience and more while taking on the Crew, which fell short of winning back-to-back MLS Cups last year. Still, CBS Sports portends a favorable matchup for the Rapids, considering that the Crew will play without its starting goalkeeper and that the Rapids scored the second-most goals in the MLS regular season this year. Sports Illustrated also picks Colorado to win, citing the Rapids’ roster and, specifically, the combination of Denver native Conor Casey and Omar Cummings, who were the league’s top-scoring duo this year with 27 goals. The game starts tonight at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN 2.