Shattuck hopes to enjoy rare air in Colorado

Ricardo Lopez-Espin is the leading goal scorer for Shattuck-St. Mary's, which is nearing a Development Academy division title. Courtesy of Shattuck-St. Mary's

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The last time Shattuck-St. Mary's faced Central Conference Frontier Division rival Colorado Rapids, the team had to come from behind to salvage a draw -- this while playing at home in Faribault, Minn.

Shattuck-St. Mary's visits the Rapids for a rematch Saturday in the Mile High City with Development Academy Under-17/18 playoff positions on the line. Shattuck leads the divsion while the Rapids are tied for second. Only the top two teams in the eight-squad division are assured of a playoff position.

"When we play at their place, the altitude is going to be a challenge for us. That's going to be the most important factor for us," Shattuck midfielder Francisco Narbon said. "But I think that our team is pretty solid playing away from home, so we'll have to be ready to go hard and get them tired instead of us."

Shattuck-St. Mary's is 7-1-1 in division play and 12-2-2 overall. The team takes a four-match win streak into the contest with the Rapids. Shattuck-St. Mary's last suffered defeat on April 22 to division rival Scott Gallagher-Missouri, only to win the rematch in the very next game on May 5 to begin its present winning spree.

"For us, all season our defense has been a really big key for us, but we kind of came out a little overconfident the first time we played Missouri," SMU-bound midfielder John Lujano said. "That was probably the low point of our season because we had just tied the Rapids and that was a little bit disappointing. After we lost to Gallagher, we were kind of down, but we put in a good week of training and we got back to what made us successful, which is playing the ball wide. Beating them the second time we played them, that was massively huge."

Lujano's four goals are tied with forward Eddosa Muhammed and come behind top scorer Ricardo Lopez-Espin with seven. Midfielder Jacob Gandrilla has three goals, midfielder Patrick Barnes has two and defenders Joseph Chabries and Blake Jones have contributed a goal apiece.

Defenders Chabries, Jones, Wesley Schrock, Valdis Upmalis and Andrew Moullin have played well in front of goalie Christian Foust, said coach Tim Carter.

On Saturday, Shattuck-St. Mary's will be after a win that could put the team safely in the top spot as the regular season winds to a close.

"Sometimes, I don't think that anything serves as a better wake-up call than getting beat by Missouri, and sometimes, you get beat and you become re-centered. You're not going to go through this league unbeaten, which is not to say that we want that to happen again," Carter said.

"We had to come back to tie the Rapids the last time, so when you're going against a team that trains at elevation, you know that the challenge out there against the Rapids at their place will be a tough game. They've suffered a loss recently, so their coach is probably going to say, 'boys, this team is in front of you. Beat them, and you're back.' Hopefully, we'll be able to play them at altitude."