The Colorado Rapids' path toward a postseason berth continues Saturday night in a comfortable environment against an uncomfortable opponent.
The Rapids are 5-0-2 at home since the beginning of July but that stretch does not include a match against the Seattle Sounders, who don't seem to mind the altitude.
The Sounders have won their last three visits to Colorado, including 1-0 on April 20, and are 7-0-1 in their last eight overall against the Rapids. A 1-1 draw in Seattle on July 20 broke the Sounders' seven-match winning streak in the series.
"We'll match them," Rapids coach Oscar Pareja told the team's official website. "I see it as a big challenge for our team, and I know the boys have such a good personality that when these big challenges come, they step up."
The Sounders (15-8-6) also have a hot stretch since the start of July. They are a league-best 9-3-3 and are tied with Real Salt Lake for first place in the Western Conference, which has them eyeing the Supporters' Shield.
"I think we'll be OK with a playoff spot. I think more importantly is getting the win and focusing on the Supporters' Shield," midfielder Brad Evans told the team's official website. "I think this team is good enough and is obviously a playoff team, but we have loftier goals than just making the playoffs at this point."
Seattle will be without Clint Dempsey for a third straight game due to a hamstring injury, but he wasn't on the team for either of the previous two meetings this year and hasn't scored since joining the Sounders in August.
Without Dempsey, Seattle has ties in consecutive matches after winning five straight. A 1-1 home draw with New York on Sunday snapped a six-game home winning streak.
Pareja thinks Seattle will start the attacking duo of Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins, who scored the only goal in the Sounders' win in Colorado earlier this year. Johnson hasn't faced the Rapids this season but has four goals in his last four games against them.
Johnson, Martins and Lamar Neagle are tied for the team lead with eight goals.
The attack might not be asked to do a whole lot if the back line and goalkeeping remain strong. The Sounders have given up three goals in their last seven matches and allowed more than one once in their past 13. Michael Gspurning has four shutouts in the last seven matches.
Colorado (12-9-9) has had to sit on a 1-0 loss at Portland since Sept. 20.
While idle, the Rapids haven't had to watch other teams jump them in the standings, though San Jose now trails them by one point for the fifth and final postseason spot in the West.
Pareja said his team has been watching the standings while it trains.
"We think about it - how can we plan, what can we do here or there?" Pareja said. "But it comes down to the next game, then, regardless of the outcome of the weekend, the next one is even more important, and then the next one, and the next one."