Bounce back win in home opener against Atlanta United. Rapids host local rival Sporting KC on Saturday.
What a resounding and satisfying victory in the home opener! After a slow start to the season, the Burgundy Boys were able to dominate a strong Eastern Conference foe thumping them 3-0. It was the perfect response to the critics, especially seeing as though Atlanta United has been tipped as an MLS Cup contender this season.
(Image: Colorado Rapids)
Diego Rubio rightfully earned himself Man of the Match honors and subsequently picked up MLS Team of the Week honors as well. The Chilean opened the scoring in the 33rd minute as he timed his header perfectly off a Michael Barrios cross. At half time, Robin Fraser summed it up well when he said "we could have scored 3 or 4 goals early on. Obviously, now it's a different game and much closer. We had to take our chances on offense and stop giving the ball away so easily in midfield." Low and behold, that's exactly what the home side was able to do in the second half. They shored up the defense and held onto a shutout. Unfortunately, Danny Wilson didn't step back onto the field in the second half as he apparently pulled a hamstring. No specifics yet on his injury status going forward. In the 48th minute, Rubio hit an early cross splitting two defenders perfectly. Jon Lewis made a great run and hit the ball one-time, a sweet volley that found the back of the net. DSG Park erupted with joy and the celebration was on. In the 85th minute, Miles Robinson made a foolish error and picked up a second yellow card giving the home team a man advantage. Rubio almost had a breakaway from half field, so you could call it a tactical foul. It was the Brazilian connection that help seal the game two minutes later, as Lucas Esteves found Andre Shinyashiki down the left wing. Simple soccer, one-two passing opened the defense as Shinyashiki buried it on the near post.
Beyond Rubio, Esteves and Kaye had standout performances in the game. Yarbrough did well to earn the shutout as did the entire team defense. For the fan base, it was a huge sigh of relief to see the team bounce back with such a solid game. The 3-4-3 formation appeared to be a catalyst for the turnaround. You could also argue that not having the midweek Champions League games and having more rest was a major factor. Regardless, it's exactly what every Colorado fan wanted to see. The team has had some turnover in the squad, something they're not used to, this past offseason. They looked out of sync initially but clearly found their rhythm in the MLS home opener of the 2022 season.
Preview: Colorado Rapids vs Sporting KC
It's relatively hard to read this Sporting KC team. They're obviously still a talented team with a fantastic coach. They've lost Alan Pulido long term due to injury. KC appears to be a team that has lost some of its mojo. They can absolutely pick that back up at any time. One bounce, one goal, one win can change everything.
Kansas City started the season with a 3-1 loss to Atlanta United. They did respond with a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. Houston is not a strong team and tipped to be near the bottom of the West. However, a win's a win. One of the strengths of this KC side is their width as Russell and Salloi can prove difficult to cope with. They also maintain the core of their midfield and defense from previous seasons. However, it's hard to overlook the glaring hole they've always had without Pulido. A striker. Khiry Shelton filled in last week and could be the guy going forward which is going to look more like a false 9. I think this changes the way KC plays and Fraser will prepare the team accordingly. This could prove to be a very advantageous time to play against Sporting KC, before they have a chance to get back into their stride. This game is also a chance for the Rapids to prove they belong at the top. In the past two seasons, Colorado has been tagged as a team who can't cut it against the elite teams of MLS. After spanking Atlanta 3-0, following up with a win over Sporting KC would certainly answer the critics.
For the Rapids, they will likely be without Danny Wilson at the central center back role. Look for Lalas Abubakar to take the role, while Keegan Rosenberry slides into the right center back role. Steven Beitashour will slot into the right wingback spot. Otherwise, everyone is healthy, and a similar squad could be expected on Saturday. Then again, Robin Fraser is good at keeping us guessing and rotating the squad. The big question is will he name a more attacking formation like last week, the 3-4-3, or revert to the 5-3-2 (or 3-4-2-1 if you prefer). We haven't seen the true 3-4-3 often, which employs two wingers and a striker. The narrower, and somewhat defensive 3-4-2-1 formation doesn't have wingers but two attacking midfielders that take more central channels in support of the single striker. Likewise the 5-3-2 formation is more defensive in nature, using three central midfielders, one target striker and a second striker. The 5-3-2 isn't being used as often recently.
With Lewis and Barrios in good form, it's hard to see Fraser dropping either player. I think he'll stick with the 3-4-3 and use mostly the same lineup from last week. Kaye and Price in the double pivot are looking fantastic together. I could see Max getting into the mix and maybe dropping Barrios (not my preference but Fraser really seems to manage Barrios' minutes). When Max comes in for one of the wingers, this is usually when we see the 3-4-2-1 formation used. This option doesn't seem to be as effective as the team lacks width beyond a Lucas Esteves individual effort. I think the club is built for success using the true 3-4-3 formation and hope to see it used again on Saturday.
Here's my predicted starting XI for Saturday's matchup:
Colorado Rapids vs Sporting KC
Saturday March 12th at 7pm MT
Dick's Sporting Goods Park
TV: DirectTV, AT&T Now or EvocaTV (ESPN+ out of area)