Vancouver Whitecaps look to tame surging Colorado Rapids in return from break

VANCOUVER — Goalkeeper Zac MacMath is hungry for his first win with the Vancouver Whitecaps, especially if he can record it against his former teammates.

“There’s not a team that I want to beat more than Colorado,” MacMath said after training this week.

The 27-year-old spent four seasons with the Rapids (4-9-3) before he was traded to the Whitecaps (4-6-6) for midfielder Nicolas Mezquida in December.

With ‘Caps starting netminder Maxime Crepeau off on international duty, MacMath is poised to make his third start of the season on Saturday when the Rapids visit Vancouver. Earlier this year, he notched a draw against the New York Red Bulls and took a loss against Orlando City SC.

Wanting to perform in front of your former club is normal, the ‘keeper said.

“But at the end of the day, you’ve just got to go out there, do your job and hope that the guys in front of you can help you as much as possible,” he said.

Saturday’s contest will mark a return to action for two teams who turned their seasons around before heading into the recent FIFA international break.

After starting the year 0-4-2, the Whitecaps went on a run, starting with a 1-0 win over Major League Soccer’s top team, Los Angeles FC, in mid-April.

Colorado’s season has followed a similar path.

The Rapids lost eight games in a row, including a 3-2 defeat to the Whitecaps in early May. The club dismissed head coach Anthony Hudson on May 1, replacing him with assistant Casey Connors.

Colorado went on to win four of five games heading into the break.

“They really turned it around. I think it’s one of those things where the coach got fired, the team really rallied behind their assistant coach,” said Whitecaps midfielder Brett Levis. “They’re definitely not the same team we played in Colorado.”

Vancouver is undefeated in its last four games, but hasn’t played since earning a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC on May 31.

The team hasn’t taken much time off from training, but long breaks can still present a challenge. It’s difficult to replicate the pace of a game in practice, MacMath said, so setting the tone early on Saturday will be crucial.

“Those first 15 minutes of the game will be important, getting on top of them and hopefully using that momentum to get some goals and find the win,” he said.

When the ‘Caps last faced the Rapids in Colorado, Andy Rose played the hero with a late goal. While the Vancouver midfielder said he’d love to repeat the feat, he’s also confident in the offence his teammates provide.

“It doesn’t matter who’s scoring the goals as long as they’re going in,” said Rose, who could appear in his 100th MLS game this weekend. “We want to keep racking up the points.”

COLORADO RAPIDS (4-9-3) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-6-6)

Saturday, BC Place

GOAL DIFFERENTIAL: Vancouver has struggled to score this season and currently sits at the bottom of the Western Conference in goals for with 17. Colorado is near the top of the list with 25 strikes, but the Rapids have also given up more goals than any other MLS team (34). The ‘Caps have been relatively good about protecting their net, allowing just 20 goals in their first 18 games.

FAMILIAR FACES: Two former Whitecaps will return to BC Place for the first time on Saturday. Striker Kei Kamara played one season for Vancouver before becoming a free agent last fall. Midfielder Nicolas Mezquida spent the first five years of his MLS career with the ‘Caps before he was traded to Colorado in the off-season for ‘keeper Zac MacMath.

MISSING PIECES: The Whitecaps will be without four of their usual starting 11 when they line up against the Rapids. Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, midfielder Russell Teibert and centre backs Doneil Henry and Derek Cornelius are all off representing Canada at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Colorado will be missing winger Jonathan Lewis, who’s representing the United States in the tournament.

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