WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) – The Colorado Rapids hope to receive a lift from having two of their best offensive players in the starting lineup together for the first time in nearly a year. They'll also get a chance to extend the Portland Timbers' misery on the road.
The Rapids will try to avoid losing three straight for the second time this season when they host the Timbers on Saturday night.
Colorado's 2-6-0 record on the road is one reason it is tied for sixth in the Western Conference. Injuries are another, with forward Omar Cummings limited to 11 games and fellow striker Conor Casey six. The duo combined for 10 goals and seven assists last season.
The Rapids (6-8-1) hope to have both in the starting lineup together for the first time since last July and for only the third time together at any point this season.
Cummings was a second-half substitute in a 2-1 loss to San Jose on June 20 - his first action since May 6. He's been sidelined for much of the year with a sprained ankle, but said he's feeling close to full strength.
"I'm feeling better, definitely getting my fitness back," Cummings told the Rapids' official website. "There are times my ankle can be a little sore, but (I) try not to over do it, overwork it too much."
Casey, who has worked his way back from a ruptured Achilles suffered last season, has played in three of the Rapids' last four games and started against the Earthquakes.
Colorado could use both at full strength right now. The Rapids have struggled to score recently, tallying one goal in their last three games, including a U.S. Open Cup match.
Playing its next four games against conference rivals, Colorado knows the importance of this stretch.
"We're 15 games into the season," Drew Moor said. "We're getting guys back from injuries, some important key members of this squad, who are able to adapt as soon as they step in. So there are no excuses as far as system or formations. Everybody has been integrated in and everybody is ready to go."
The Rapids will debut a new 4-4-2 formation versus Portland (4-6-4), which is 0-4-2 on the road.
The Timbers won for the second time in their last seven MLS matches Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Seattle on first-half goals by Kris Boyd and David Horst.
"I thought we showed an unbelievable amount of character," said coach John Spencer, whose job security reportedly was called into question. "When (people) say players are not playing for me, I didn't see anyone not playing for me today."
While Spencer doesn't believe effort is an issue, Portland's road struggles might say otherwise. The Timbers have scored two goals away from home - the last by Boyd in a 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on April 14 - and enter the match with a 337-minute goalless drought outside Portland.
Colorado won both matches against Portland last season.