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Rapids-Earthquakes Preview

AP - Sports

The Colorado Rapids have turned things around over the last six weeks thanks to a continued focus on defense.

The San Jose Earthquakes had an especially difficult time stopping their last opponent.

Looking to win three straight for the first time in almost two years, visiting Colorado tries to avoid a fourth consecutive loss to San Jose as these Western Conference rivals meet Saturday night.

After allowing seven goals in opening 0-3-2, the Rapids (4-4-3) have surrendered two during a 4-1-1 run - with every win coming by way of shutout. Colorado beat Toronto FC 1-0 on May 4, then pulled out a 2-0 victory over Columbus last Saturday.

Edson Buddle, who provided all the offense versus Toronto, gave the Rapids an early lead before Dillon Powers added some insurance in the 69th minute. Rookie Clint Irwin made a season high-tying seven saves.

"The boys were very disciplined," coach Oscar Pareja told the league's official website. "We were very concentrated on the job. Defensively was a huge performance. Solid. I saw the team growing a lot."

The Rapids haven't posted three consecutive wins since July 29-Aug. 13, 2011. After going 3-13-1 on the road last season, Colorado is 2-2-2 as the visiting club.

"I think it has a lot to do with a different mentality this year. Not that we have a completely new philosophy or mentality, it's just a little bit stronger willed," defender Drew Moor said. "We believe that we can go on the road and get results. ... (it's) the same as a home game, you want to go try and get as many points as you can."

The Rapids might have a hard time keeping things going without Buddle, who won't be available after receiving a one-game suspension from the MLS disciplinary committee for a reckless challenge last weekend. His absence could prove all the more costly given Colorado's struggles against the Earthquakes (3-4-5).

The Rapids are 3-9-7 in the series dating to July 2004 and 1-4-4 over their last nine visits to San Jose. Colorado, which suffered a pair of 4-1 losses in the last two matchups overall, hasn't dropped four straight in the series since going 0-4 during the league's first season in 1996.

Three days after snapping an 0-2-4 stretch with a 2-1 win over Toronto, San Jose saw its recent woes resume last Saturday in a 4-0 loss at Seattle. Twelve-year MLS veteran Jon Busch allowed a career worst-tying four goals.

"I told the guys in there it's about both boxes. It's about defending our box properly and being dangerous and getting to the ball first in the opposing box," coach Frank Yallop said. "We've just got to take stock on how we went about it. We'll watch film and we've just got to dust ourselves off."

The Earthquakes appear to have a good chance of bouncing back at home, where they've scored nine goals during a 3-0-3 run.

Leading the team with five goals, reigning league MVP Chris Wondolowski has scored five times during his last four games versus Colorado - including a hat trick Oct. 6.

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