for this game

Red Bulls-Rapids Preview

Jul 3, 2010 - 9:06 PM By ALAN FERGUSON STATS Writer

New York (8-5-0) at Colorado (6-3-3), 9:00 p.m. EDT

One season after finishing at the bottom of the standings, the New York Red Bulls are contending for first place in the Eastern Conference, and are in position for their longest MLS win streak in seven years.

The Colorado Rapids, meanwhile, are making progress toward ending their postseason drought, and will attempt to move closer to that goal Sunday with a fifth straight league victory over New York and third in a row at home.

The Red Bulls finished with a league-low 21 points in 2009 but new coach Hans Backe has the team off to an 8-5-0 start this year. He's gotten help from striker Juan Pablo Angel, who has eight goals so far.

New York won twice heading into the two-week World Cup break, and earned a 3-0 win at Kansas City on June 26 with Angel netting a pair of goals.

The Red Bulls haven't won four in a row in MLS play since taking five straight from April 26-May 24, 2003, and Colorado doesn't seem an inviting place to reach that mark.

The Rapids (6-3-3) have won 4-0 in each of their previous two home games against New York, and outscored the Red Bulls 16-6 during four straight wins in league play.

"It's tough to play there. It's the altitude and a big field so you have to stay disciplined and compact," New York defender Carlos Mendes said. "If you get spread out, you're going to be in trouble and we have in the past."

Colorado, which hasn't reached the postseason since 2006, is third in the Western Conference, and has gone 3-1-1 at home this season.

The Rapids, however, fell 3-0 to the host Red Bulls during a U.S. Open qualifier May 26 as John Wolyniec scored a pair of goals and Conor Chinn added another.

Despite the result, Colorado gained immediate respect from New York's coach.

"I like Colorado and the way they play," said Backe, whose team is 3-3-0 on the road this season. "In the Open Cup, I would say that's one of the better teams I've seen."

Colorado has one of the league's best defenses but has given up four of its 11 goals in the past two MLS games. The Rapids, however, extended their unbeaten streak in league play to a season-high five with a pair of 2-all draws on the road.

Conor Casey scored for the third time in four games in the team's return from the World Cup break June 26 against Houston, and the Rapids went ahead on an own goal in the second half.

However, they also gave up the tying score in the 80th minute.

"After being off for two weeks, the humidity and this heat, grinding it out and getting a point, I think it's justifiable for us," goalkeeper Matt Pickens said. "It keeps our streak alive."