Chris Sharpe: Colorado Rapids chance now open
After the defeat to San Jose, it's been a tense old week at Colorado Rapids. We didn't really expect such a result - especially at home in front of our own fans. The atmosphere this week has been what you would expect at the training ground. It's been one of frustration and a feeling in the air that there will be changes in the squad for this weekend's game in Chicago. We didn't play at all well against San Jose. We started off brightly for the first five minutes, but then we allowed them to dictate the game, the tempo and the direction of play. After the first three games where we showed plenty of heart and fight, it just wasn't there against San Jose. The coaching staff were very disappointed in the performance of course, especially letting an expansion team come into our own backyard and dictate the game the way they did. It was an unexpected defeat and the thing that the coaches were most disappointed with was the level of effort and intensity when we went behind at home. The message this week was simple: we're back on the road, we've lost three points at home and we need to make sure we get those points back - even if it is away and against a far from easy opponent. Chicago's home ground is always full. They have very passionate and vocal fans, who have a great influence on the team. So by no means is it going to be easy in there backyard, but really we expect nothing less. The players we've spoken about for this weekend against Chicago are Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Tomasz Frankowski. Blanco is a very, very experienced player and one of the best in the MLS. He plays in behind the front two, one of which is Frankowski and if you let him, Blanco will dictate the pace of the game and intimidate the officials - especially at home. You can't really blame the refs, this guy is a legend. We have to close his space down and not let him get the ball. He is very dangerous from set pieces as well so it's crucial not to give anything away close to goal. Frankowski is a natural goal scorer and a very good MLS player. Some people will remember him from his spell in England at Wolves. Again, he feeds off the little balls Blanco will supply him and works hard to get himself into spaces between defenders. We believe they have a few weaknesses, especially at the back and if we can keep Blanco quiet and attack in numbers down the wings we will have success. Personally, I've been able to get 180 minutes under my belt this week. I had a game for the Rapids reserves on Sunday and then played in the midweek scrimmage against the University of Denver. The reserves competition is a very highly regarded league in the MLS as it gives the players on the bench, those coming back from injuries and the young ones a chance to get minutes under there belt. It's a chance for the players not playing first team every week to show the coaches they deserve to be in there. The reserve competition here in MLS is in a league table form. We've won it the last two seasons and it is a very competitive competition. The Rapids reserves are controlled by assistant coach John Murphy and Gary Smith, so the players know if they do well head coach Fernando Clavijo will soon know about it. Everything is nicely connected. The game against the University of Denver was a good hit-out for everyone involved. We drew 0-0, with the games split into three 30 minute periods. The reserve team played the first two periods and the first team played the last 30 minutes. It was great to get another 90 minutes under my belt. College players are generally big, strong, fit athletes. I personally don't know a whole lot about colleges and college players, but from what I see at our club and around the league there's definitely some great young talent at the schools with good soccer programmes. Getting those two games under my belt was very important for me with the prospect of a first team call-up now looming. Bouna Coundoul looks like he might be called up for the Senegal squad through this season, which means an opening for yours truly. Bouna has mentioned to me here and there that there are internationals coming up for Senegal and it looks as though he will be gone for five MLS games next month and in June. The coaches haven't said anything to me and I am guessing they won't until the Senegal squad is named and Bouna is on that list. For me personally, the prospect of Bouna going away on national team duty is something I will think about when it comes around. Sure it's in the back of my mind and when that time comes I will be ready. Training to me is always of the same importance whether you're playing or on the bench, because at anytime you can be called upon. I have to be ready for any situation and be sure I am at my best every day. This week's games have helped. After all, getting a cleansheet in any form of competition is a boost to the confidence.