Colorado Rapids (No. 3 seed in Eastern Conference) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (No. 4 seed in East) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., in Eastern Conference Championship.
The two teams have never played each other in the postseason before. However, the Earthquakes lead the overall regular-season series 21-17-8.
9:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel (U.S.), no official viewing in Canada.
The two teams that finished in the lowest playoff qualifying positions in the Western Conference are set to play the Eastern Conference Championship. Though considered by some as "unfashionable" teams, they bear the underdog title with pride.
The Rapids reached the conference final by virtue of an incredibly hard-fought series with the Columbus Crew that culminated in a thrilling shootout victory at Crew Stadium.
The Earthquakes' semifinal performance was equally as gritty, overturning a 1-0 home deficit against the New York Red Bulls to clinch a thrilling 3-1 victory in New York against Ángel, Henry, Marquez & Co.
Despite the rigors of the playoff series against the Crew, the Rapids came through with players intact.
Veteran wide midfielder Brian Mullan received 12 stitches in a leg wound following an early challenge with Emmanuel Ekpo last Saturday, but he will be fit to go. Jamie Smith, who had been out with a tight hamstring, survived all 120 minutes of last weekend's match and has also been given the all-clear.
The team is feeling confident after the roller-coaster ride of the Columbus series and looking forward to hosting this weekend’s final. Head coach Gary Smith has been talking tough this week and is fully confident about the Rapids' home-field advantage.
“Honestly, they should be more worried about us,” he told MLSsoccer.com this week at training. “We have been dominant at home.”
San Jose Earthquakes
The Quakes will be in Colorado on Friday for a light practice to prepare themselves for the altitude. The team does have some injury concerns with captain Ramiro Corrales the most notable absentee. Corrales pulled up in the New York game last week with a right hamstring injury, and the Earthquakes have said it will be a “miracle” if he does start this weekend.
Center back Jason Hernandez likely will start despite a minor knock. He hurt his calf in the warm-up to last week’s game, and though he played through it, he said it remains sore. Should the injuries force a shuffle in the back line, Frank Yallop has said he has full confidence in backups Chris Leitch and Bobby Burling.
“They’ve gotten results for us and nothing changes from that," Yallop said.
Heroes & villains
Omar Cummings vs. Tim Ward: Cummings has shown all season how dangerous he can be when drifting out wide, attacking the opposition's left back and providing crosses for Conor Casey. With Corrales almost certain to be absent, it could be former Rapids player Tim Ward who has to deal with the speedy Jamaican. There's always a chance MLS Comeback Player of the Year Bobby Convey could play there, too. Convey was outstanding in the 3-1 victory over New York with two goals and an assist.
Chris Wondolowski vs. Drew Moor: Golden Boot winner Wondolowski is always a danger on the right hand side as tends to drift away from his marker to find space. Therefore, Gary Smith may feel the need to insert defensive rock Moor out wide to counter the threat. Anthony Wallace has been playing at left back recently but was not at his best in last weekend’s Columbus game. Smith said the disadvantage of pushing Moor out wide is to lose Wallace’s attacking threat.
Stat that makes you go, “Hmm ..."
Since the Aug. 7 victory over the Earthquakes, the Rapids went 6-3-4 to finish off the regular season and book a place in the postseason.