Red Bulls-Rapids Preview
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- The Colorado Rapids have played host to a Fourth of July contest since 1996, including four largely successful meetings with the New York Red Bulls.
Even if it hasn't been a holiday, Colorado has still had its way with visiting New York in recent years.
The Rapids seek their first home victory in three tries as they host the Red Bulls on Thursday night.
Colorado's annual tradition has included meetings with New York in 1996, 1998, 2008 and 2010. They played to a 1-all draw in the most recent matchup, ending the Rapids' three-game winning streak on July 4.
That draw also is the only time Colorado hasn't dominated the Red Bulls in the last four overall meetings at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids have outscored New York 13-2 over those contests, scoring four goals in each of their three wins.
"It's a tough place to play," Red Bulls coach Mike Petke told the team's official website. "They always get a sell-out crowd on the Fourth of July. Pumps it up, pumps the players up for whatever reason, but we're looking to change that obviously for Thursday."
The Red Bulls managed only a Thierry Henry goal in a 4-1 loss in their last road game versus the Rapids on July 20, 2011.
"Colorado, we haven't done very well there," midfielder Dax McCarty said. "So we need to go in there with the mindset we had (Sunday)."
New York (8-6-4) beat Houston 2-0 on the road Sunday to end a three-game losing streak that included a defeat in U.S. Open Cup competition.
"It was huge for us," Petke said. "If we dominate like the way we did, that's a positive step."
Fabian Espindola registered his first goal in nine MLS games, and Henry assisted on Jonny Steele's goal in the 88th minute. Petke has been impressed with the duo of late.
"If you would have told me before the season that Fabian and Jonny would be front-line starters for us at this point, I would have said, `Probably not,'" Petke said. "The two of them work so hard. They epitomize what hard work means. They got rewards for their hard and work and it was good for them."
They'll look to keep it going against Colorado (6-7-5), which ended a three-match losing streak with a 4-3 win over Montreal on Saturday. Dillon Powers had a goal and an assist before substitute Tony Cascio scored the winner in the 96th minute.
"I think a lot of it comes from the belief in ourselves and the collective belief," Powers said. "We've been sick these three past games that we've lost in a row and I think we just couldn't have that feeling again."
Coach Oscar Pareja, whose club seeks to avoid a three-match home winless stretch, hopes the victory leads to a move up the Western Conference standings.
"Credit to the boys, and hopefully this is the spark that we need to get a stretch down and get back home and get points," Pareja said. "We can't wait to get back home."
The Rapids will welcome back midfielder Shane O'Neill, who scored a goal in two matches for the U.S. in the U-20 World Cup in Turkey before being eliminated in group play. Colorado is 4-0-4 when the 19-year-old is in the team's starting lineup.
The Red Bulls will be without defender Roy Miller, who will represent Costa Rica in the Gold Cup
Updated July 3, 2013