Updated: May 28
After suffering a 2-1 loss to LAFC last weekend, the Colorado Rapids host a struggling FC Dallas side. The Burgundy Boys went into LA on a 3 game winning streak, and despite losing they responded well by fighting hard throughout the match, leaving the Rapids in 5th place in the West with a match in hand over the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo.
Meanwhile FC Dallas tied Real Salt Lake 2-2 last weekend and lost to Minnesota United 1-0 the previous week, leaving them last place in the West. With both teams coming off a disappointing result, there is plenty of motivation to bounce back with a win. The Rapids have performed well at home recently and especially against FC Dallas.
Some Fun Stats
-Rapids are unbeaten in last 6 matches at DSG Park against FC Dallas
-Rapids have scored in 27 consecutive matches at DSG Park, the longest active home scoring streak in MLS
-Rapids are repping the Primeblue kits which are made of recycled ocean plastic this weekend
Insight from the Pre-Match Press Conference
I had the chance to ask Head Coach Robin Fraser about how the team will cope without Kellyn Acosta in the lineup. Fraser said, “Kellyn’s physical abilities are superb. He has the ability to close players down very quickly. He's got a great engine, so he can run all day, and he’s strong. Certainly that’s been a part of our ability to defend and win balls back in good areas. In terms of how we expect the team to cope, we have a lot of guys that are good players, and if someone’s gone there’s an opportunity for someone else. We have faith in the group and know that collectively we can help make up for losing some of that physicality.”
Fraser confirmed that a decision hasn't been mare on who his replacement will be; however, the team has been working out a few different guys in the position. Without a decision at this point, I'm going to speculate that Collen Warner gets the start with a possible 2nd half sub featuring academy product Oliver Larraz. Larraz is more of an attacking midfielder however. It is also possible Cole Bassett slides into Acosta's #8 role, while Mezquida or Benezet could enter the starting lineup for the first time this season in the #10 role. Although Philip Mayaka is a great fit positionally he is on loan with the Switchbacks and I don’t expect a call up for one match. Mayaka hasn’t played many minutes either and honestly doesn’t look like he’s been able to hit his stride yet. The talent is evident but he needs time to settle in.
On Kellyn Acosta - he's been called up to the USMNT after playing exceptionally well lately in the box to box role. He will be sorely missed in the Rapids midfield where he partners Jack Price with great efficiency. The American leads the team with 13 tackles this season which is 8th best in MLS. Acosta has very much earned the call up, and we wish him good luck. The opportunity to play with the very best domestic and European-based players in the US talent pool could be very beneficial for his growth. While stepping up to the next level in quality, he's on the roster for a May 30th friendly vs Switzerland and could play more for the USMNT this summer and beyond. Following the friendly, the US Men's National Team plays in the first ever, US-hosted CONCACAF Nations League tournament right here in Denver happening next Thursday and Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High! Going into July the USMNT plays in the Gold Cup (which could feature different Rapids players), all serving as a prelude to the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers starting in September. No indication yet as to which players will be called up to which games. However the Rapids player pool that could be called for national duty includes Kellyn Acosta, Jon Lewis, Cole Bassett and Sam Vines.
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
Game plan for the Rapids
It is more of the same for the Burgundy Boys. Outside of replacing Acosta, we shouldn't expect many changes in the lineup. Collen Warner replacing Acosta gives us a defensive midfielder with experience. This is the most like for like switch possible.
The Rapids have shown great improvement in team mentality this season. Yarbrough and the four defenders in front of him are playing very well as they are limiting emergency defending situations and are looking better on the ball each game. The midfield group is solid, linking defense to attack exceptionally well. This transition from breaking up play, taking possession and pushing forward quickly and efficiently has been arguably the biggest area of improvement for this team.
Mikey Barrios has transcended the attack as he creates space, makes direct runs, gets in behind and generally causes havoc for opposing defenses. The Columbian played 6 seasons in Dallas, so he's all too familiar with their team and tactics. After scoring against LAFC last week, and notching 2 assists in the previous week it is fair to say this guy is on fire right now! Our other two attackers, Shinyashiki and Rubio, are playing well overall - but a goal or assist could go a long way to boost their mentality.
In the end, the Rapids need to stick to their usual game plan. Expect the Rapids to build up out of the back, find space in behind for our wingers or a late Bassett run and finish given the opportunity. Lock up defensively and keep that clean sheet. Tactically I don't expect anything major to change either. Call it a 4231 or 433 but here's what I expect the starting lineup to look like:
What to watch for from Dallas
While they are sitting in last place, do not sleep on this team. They are very well balanced from top to bottom. Their key striker Franco Jara who earns top 15 in league pay at about $3.5 million is very dangerous. The Argentinian hasn't put together great numbers on the field at this point in the season as he only has 1 goal so far which came from a penalty. Let's face it, if you're a striker you have to score consistently, and this cold streak could bode well for the Rapids. That being said, it only takes one moment to boost his confidence, changing everything in the drop of a hat.
Matt Hedges provides cover in the back while Bryan Acosta is their star box to box midfielder. Tanner Tessman is doing very well as the #6 who provides cover in front of their backline. It is pretty amazing that he was a Clemson University football kicking prospect. Dabo Swinney even said "Dadgummit I should've kept my mouth shut! I'm happy for him, that's pretty amazing," when Tessman made his decision to stick with soccer. He's 6'2", is still only 19 years old and has represented the USMNT as well.
Additionally, Paxton Pomykal is a great playmaker and a weapon off the bench. Still considered one of the top USMNT prospects at 21 years old, we should always keep an eye out for what this kid can do. One of the better outside backs in the league Ryan Hollingshead lines up at left back where he'll likely be facing former teammate Mikey Barrios. This should be one of the most intriguing one on one matchups of the night.
Dallas has played a 4141 and 433 formation this season but seem to have more success with the latter. Dallas likes to play a press defensively, so the Rapids will need to be careful in possession and build up patiently. Like most soccer games, the battle is won in midfield where this Dallas team is very capable. They will look to slow down the pace of the game as most teams do on the road.
Wrap up and how to watch
Reminder that if you're attending the home match, there is no tailgating allowed, so enjoy a barbeque at home which is what I'm doing. Masks are required if you’re not vaccinated and encouraged if you are vaccinated out of respect for others. I'll be at the match not as a member of the media but instead with my wife and friends. Very excited to get the fan experience for the first time in ages!
As always, supporters clubs will have their own events. Sponsor bars Celtic on Market, British Bulldog and Stoneys Uptown Joint are all safe bets if you're looking to pre-game or watch at a bar.
Breaking news this afternoon is that DSG Park will open to 100% capacity starting July 4th! This means it's the last home game without a full stadium. We face Cincy and KC on the road in June before welcoming the Seattle Sounders on Independence Day. Until next time, stay safe out there soccer fans!