Recapping the match at Minnesota
After a disappointing trip to Seattle with a 3-0 loss, the Rapids looked to be in trouble early on against Minnesota United FC on Sunday. Going down a goal early, then a red card for centerback Danny Wilson. For a brief moment, it kind of looked like the season was blowing up. Are we really going to see them come this close only to fail spectactularly? The answer, against Minnesota, was unequivocally NO.
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
Not only did the Rapids fight back, showing fantastic character and grit in doing so, but they won the game being a man down. And not only that, they scored three 2nd half goals. 3-1 final in Minnesota and it felt like a statement win. Every single player picked up the slack and played well. Jon Lewis and Mikey Barrios had the highest individual ratings according to Fotmob, an 8.6 for each player. . Lucas Esteves scored his debut goal in style and was the 3rd highest rated player in the game. Younes Namli was looking dangerous throughout the match as he had several close shots. The DP midfielder appears to really be ramping back up to full match fitness and sharpness. Cole Bassett was on the scoresheet as well after scoring a penalty to tie the game.
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
As Cole said after the game, "The last two weeks we've honestly seemed to play better with ten men, which is kind of crazy. I think this team, it shows when it gets down to it at the end of games- alot of teams lose that game, down a man, down a goal- we scored three goals." He is not wrong. It's easy to lose in those situations and overcoming that adversity is what has made this team and this season special. At the same time, the team needs to learn from their mistakes and not allow any more red cards. Regardless of whether it's a bad call from the ref, they have to do their best not to be in that position at all. I have no doubts the team is working on this already.
We also found out a few days after the game that the Rapids set another record. Only one other time has a MLS team scored more than 3 goals when down a man. The Rapids are the 3rd team ever to accomplish this. However the Rapids are the only team to score 3 goals down a man and overcome a deficit. (Data credit: Elias Sports Bureau)
When Head Coach Robin Fraser was asked about the game he had this to share, "Thoughts on tonights match are: What a team. What a fantastic team. Down a goal, down a man. Such a character statement. They don't quit. Words cannot express how proud I am of this win and how proud i am of the team". Needless to say, Fraser was beaming with pride when he spoke to the media on Sunday night. Veteran centerback Drew Moor once again come on late in the game to shore up the defense. It marked his 400th MLS appearance. He now ranks 6th on the all time list of minutes played, just behind former Rapids player Jeff Larentowicz. It was a special night for Drew and the whole team waited to celebrate with him in the locker room afterwards. Drew spoke about how much this meant to him and how it makes the team so special. If you haven't seen it yet, go to the Colorado Rapids social media pages and check out the video congratulating Drew Moor on this incredible milestone.
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
Upcoming schedule to close out the season
The next match for the Rapids is an away trip to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Real Salt Lake. There's a chance to win the Rocky Mountain Cup and to build some momentum before hosting Seattle Sounders next Wednesday. The road to closing out the season is not going to be easy. The following Saturday is a home match with Portland Timbers, then away to New England Revolution on a Wednesday night. Then an early game on Halloween vs Houston before the final game of the season. Home to LAFC on Decision Day.
Every game is a cup final from here on out. That doesn't mean that I think Fraser will suddenly stop rotating the squad. Expect the same 532 formation, the same tactics and a similar squad rotation. However the pressure on the team is mounting. Chasing first place in the West seems a tall order at this point. Maintaining the 3rd place position and potentially climbing into 2nd place is still in the cards though. A grand total of SIX remaining games in the regular season.
On to Utah
It's no secret that the Colorado Rapids have traditionally not performed well on the road in Sandy, Utah. At the same time, they have been a good road team lately. This season the Rapids are 7-4-3 (W-L-D) away from home which is 3rd best in MLS. Meanwhile they're 7-1-6 at home.
Comparing the teams statiscally shows a lot of similarities in goals scored, shots and possession. The big difference is Colorado has a superior defence. 1.6 goals against for RSL while Rapids average 1.0 goals against. Shots against, 9.1for RSL vs 7.6 for Rapids. The last three matchups have been all over the place. Rapids won 2-1at home in August. In July, RSL won 3-0 in Utah. And finishing out last season to win the Rocky Mountain Cup, the Rapids thrashed RSL 5-0 at Rio Tinto. Currently RSL sits in 5th place in the Western Conference of MLS. Although 5th is technically a safe position to make playoffs (top 7 out of 13 qualify) it's a tight race. They have zero room for margin. RSL is tied on points with LA Galaxy, and 5 points below them are Minnesota, Vancouver and LAFC. Anything can happen in these final 6 matches.
One thing the Rapids have to avoid is a slow start. When they were able to crush RSL last year, it was sparked by two early goals and defensive stability. RSL has a strong midfield and this strength has to be mitigated. On paper, the 532 formation employed under Fraser is a great way to combat this. The Rapids will need to dominate that midfield by winning 50/50 battles, maintaining possession and eventually grinding their opponnent's down.
RSL typically plays a 352 under interim Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni with mixed results. Herrera can be a problem to deal with down their right flank and has been a bright spot for RSL. In midfield Albert Rusnak was snubbed from international duty with Slovakia after a poor start to the season. He has since rebounded and is back in good form. The other midfielder that causes problems across MLS is Damir Kreilach. I'd argue these three players are their biggest threats. The Rapids coaching staff will likely look to minimize space and time for the RSL midfielders and Herrera down the flank.
Currently both teams have one victory over the other, meaning they're tied with 3 points each. If the Rapids win by any scoreline they will retain the Rocky Mountain Cup. This rivalry is one that can get heated where elbows fly and hard tackles abound. One thing we can guarantee is that it will get feirce out there on Saturday. From the players to the fans, nobody has any love for their opponnent in this one.
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
My predicted starting XI
Here we go! As always, the 532 formation with squad rotation should be on the cards. Lalas Abubakar will likely come in for Danny Wilson who will be out due to his red card suspension. If that is rescinded, I still expect Abubakar to come back into the lineup and move Rosenberry to right wingback. My expectation is that Fraser treats this game as one where he has to start his best possible squad. Even with a home match against Seattle coming up next Wednesday.
I'm looking for Barrios to return to the starting lineup and likewise for Namli to get his first start since returning from injury. Seeing how important the wingback positions are in this squad, I think we'll see Galvan and Esteves retain their starting roles in this game. Last international break we saw Kaye and Price return quickly to their starting roles. My guess is one of them starts, and the other is a possible sub for that same player. A strong starting lineup with a strong array of bench options (Bassett, Kaye, Lewis, Shinyashiki, Badji, Mezquida, Moor & Beitashour). The Burgundy Boys can play with anyone in this league on any day of the week. There's no reason to go into this game, or any other, afraid. Push on the accelator boys. Push hard and don't slow down! Until next time, stay safe soccer fans!