Chris Sharpe: Colorado Rapids turned on style against Salt Lake
The preparations leading up to our big TV match against Real Salt Lake on Thursday worked a treat. It was a fantastic win for the lads, especially as we actually played a 3-5-2 formation for the first time this season - and it worked superbly. Coach (Fernando) Clavijo works alot on overloading the back four - or back three for last week - at training, with 4 v 8's or 3 v 6's, this way the guys get used to dealing with situations based on alot of pressure. It really came together on Thursday, some of the stuff we played was very pleasing on the eye. Coach gives the lads guidance to how he wants the system and style to work, but mostly it is down to the guys to play as the game unfolds. Personally, I missed the win. As Bouna (Coundoul) is leaving this weekend for six games due to international commitments with Senegal, coach Clavijo wanted to give the other goalkeeper in our squad, Mike Graczyk, a feel for the first team atmosphere. It's just going to be him and me now and anything can happen before next weekend against Chivas. If I was to get injured or anything like that, he would have to step in for me and it obviously is better if he's gone through the matchday routine. It was an understandable decision. So I had to take in the Salt Lake win from the stands - and was able to get a good look at Kenny Deuchar for the visitors. Scottish fans will know Deuchar from his time with Gretna - he's just arrived in MLS this season and did well on the night. He is a big lad and was a huge target for RSL to hit. He holds the ball up well and wins alot in the air, a good acquisition for this league. All in all it was a great night for the Rapids, back to the top of the league and great reward for a tremendous effort by the lads. The big ESPN TV games are always something players look forward to, but to be fair you don't think about it come game time. It's great that ESPN show live the Thursday night games as it gives soccer the chance to sell the game to a wider viewing audience - and hopefully attract new supporters as part of the deal. The fans over here love the Thursday night ESPN games as it gives them a chance to watch their team live on TV, the only downfall is that some end up staying away because they prefer watching their team from the comfort of their living room! Being in the stands, I was actually able to learn that Pablo Mastroeni had been selected for the USA squad before him! His selection wasn't a surprise for anyone at the Rapids. He is just tremendous both on and off the field. He carries this club with great pride and is a leader. He was actually unaware of being called up. When I asked him he had no idea and said he hadn't received any notification - so he was a little surprised I had seen the squad and he hadn't heard yet that he was in! I must admit international soccer isn't a big topic inside the locker room. If you play well your chance will come, but it's not at the forefront of anyone's mind. It's all about playing well for the club first. Of course, the news broke last week that Colorado could be hosting a World Cup qualifier soon. To get any sort of international football match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park is great for the soccer public here in Colorado. The fans are always interested and will turn out in good numbers to watch, I guarantee it! It's a great endorsement for the city. Dick's is a wonderful stadium and has a great setup and is very much a community soccer place. It would be great for Commerce City and Denver if we won the qualifier. Not a whole lot has been said about the USA versus England friendly later this month. I am sure as the time gets closer and there is more coverage about it, it will become a hot topic in the dressing room, especially if Pabs plays. Of course it's going to be something special for David Beckham. Hey, isn't anything always special when Becks plays - especially for his country?!! He is a special player, who plays with so much passion. I must say, having guys like Becks, Blanco and Claudio Lopez running around MLS is great for the league - and all the players involved. These guys come from great footballing backgrounds and attracting these players is only going to make the popularity of the MLS grow around the world. Showing that we can attract big name players and also that it's no cakewalk for these guys, proves the standard of the league is very good - and it will only get better with the addition more of these type of world class names. We're now at the stage in the season where the favourites for the MLS are beginning to shakeout. I feel looking at the early form there are 5-6 teams that could be a threat this year for the title. Colorado Rapids, of course, top of the West!! FC Dallas, second in the West, have a strong well organized outfit. They have good depth in their squad as well. Columbus - top of the East - are the team on the most points. They've looked great so far this season, both going forward and defending. Chicago - second in the East - are a very hard side to break down, as we found out, and have a good record at home. Then you also have LA Galaxy, you can never count them out with Beckham and Landon Donovan, and Houston Dynamos - two times MLS champs and a team you cannot afford to ignore. There's great depth to the competition here, which means at this stage there's absolutely no way you could safely predict a winner - and MLS wouldn't have it anyother way.