By Ridge Mahoney
Having refuted rumors that he'll be hired as the U.S. national team assistant coach under Argentine Jose Pekerman
, Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo
embarked on a scouting trip to South America.
Earlier this month he paid a visit to FIFA offices in Switzerland to discuss his dispute with the Haitian soccer federation, which he claims
owes him money accrued during his stint as national team head coach. Now he can get back to the task of getting the Rapids over that final hurdle and into its first MLS Cup.
Colorado again reached the Western Conference final by upsetting Dallas in the first round, only to be beaten. Last year, the Galaxy knocked off the Rapids, 2-0; this time, Houston rallied to win,
3-1, after falling behind early.
"It took time for us to get together, to understand what the idea was," says Clavijo, who will visit his native Uruguay as well as Argentina
during the trip.
Colorado finished 11-13-8 and just barely snuck into the playoffs while ending the season with a five-game winless streak.
"It's hard to go on the road
and play hard and not get a result, or to really outplay the other team and not find the net," he said. "The people who make the predictions never give us a chance and that gives us an extra
push. We have used that in a positive way, everybody has."
The emergence of rookie Jacob Peterson
, a solid season from Argentine import Nicolas Hernandez
(seven goals) and
an offensive outburst by Kyle Beckerman
(also seven goals) were highlights of the 2006 season. Club management extended Clavijo's contract until 2008, and upon that announcement the Rapids
went on a good run before flattening out at the end of season.
Click here for more on Clavijo, including his views on
the performance of high-salaried Clint Mathis, who scored two regular-season and one play goal.