1. Looking at the standings, Colorado is sitting fairly steady in the middle of the pack. What needs to happen on the field in order for the team to improve their position and prevent a tumble back down the table?
The team simply needs to start scoring some goals. This season, the defense has stepped up and looks worlds better than the awful D we saw last season, but the forwards just aren't finding the back of the net consistently. Part of it is finishing -- I'm sure you guys are well aware of how bad Atiba Harris, who has started every game for us, is at it -- but a lot of it is simple chemistry, which we predicted would happen prior to the season. Starting so many young guys like Deshorn Brown, Martin Rivero, Dillon Powers, Kevin Harbottle and Tony Cascio in the attack means a lack of steadiness and experience, which has led to tons of shots, but not all that many goals. Edson Buddle has provided a steady influence whenever he's been on the field, but he's been suffering from small injuries all season long. (You'll probably remember that in the very first game of the season, the Rapids put on a clinic in lack of chemistry and bad finishing en route to Steward Ceus handing you guys that 1-0 win!) As the season goes along, I expect that, as long as the defense doesn't suddenly regress, the goals will start to flow more freely and the Rapids should be able to stick in the playoff picture until the very end.
2. Losing your number one goalkeeper is never going to be an easy hurdle to overcome. How is the Rapids defense responding to losing Matt Pickens to a broken arm earlier this season?
Actually, losing Matt Pickens has been a blessing in disguise. Steward Ceus is god-awful, but we've now been introduced to 23-year-old wonderkid Clint Irwin thanks to Pickens' arm injury. Irwin has been absolutely masterful between the sticks for the Rapids since coming in early against Real Salt Lake, and Pickens might not even have a shout at getting his job back. Five clean sheets in 10 appearances says it all, as does the fact that, even though he's faced four PK's since becoming the starter, only two of them have gone in.
That's not to downplay the defense, though. Oscar Pareja has shifted his tactics a bit this season to keep the fullbacks a bit further down the field instead of hanging around the opposing 18 yard box, a move that led to counter attacks on top of counter attacks last season. He also dropped Hunter Freeman and Luis Zapata, who were both ineffective in the role last year, replacing them with the far more savvy and defensive minded guys Marvell Wynne, Brian Mullan and Chris Klute. Shane O'Neill, a homegrown kid from the Rapids Academy, has started to look superb as a starting CB as well, and you'll have seen him last with the USA U-20 squad. Everyone has been playing that one step harder than they were last year, and perhaps were before Pickens went down, and it's led to the best looking Rapids defense in years.
3. I recently saw that Dallas native Conor Doyle is joining the Rapids for off-season training as a part of the club's partnership with his English Championship side, Derby County. Considering his club is looking for a loan opportunity to get him some first team playing time, do you think there is a chance that he stays on with the Rapids for a spell? How would could he plug a gap in the team's current roster?
I can't see why not. Colorado could use more goalscorers as I said above, and if he shows well in the trial he probably wouldn't find it too hard to break into the first team. The one caveat is that the Rapids almost always do loans these days with an option to sign (See: Chris Klute, Martin Rivero) so unless Derby is willing to entertain the possibility of losing Doyle entirely, it's not likely to happen. It strikes me as more of a similar move to the one that four of our players took to go out to Derby during the off-season, just for a change of pace and to learn with new teammates.
4. Predicted lineup and scoreline.
It's hard to predict what formation that Oscar Pareja is going to use, but the 4-2-3-1 has appeared to be a favorite over the past few games. In practice, that 4-2-3-1 is essentially a 4-3-3 with the two wingers basically being strikers. I expect an exciting 2-1 win for the Rapids, who are in great form at the moment and will want revenge for that 1-0 loss in the season opener.
4-2-3-1: Clint Irwin; Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Shane O'Neill, Chris Klute; Nathan Sturgis, Dillon Powers; Deshorn Brown, Martin Rivero, Atiba Harris; Edson Buddle
Thanks go again to the Burgundy Wave for a fun interview.
What do you think is going to happen in Colorado? Beer showers for the traveling DBG? Do Pareja and his kids get revenge for the 1-0 gift in Week 1?
Leave a comment, and thank you for reading!