After bringing in Robin Fraser as the head coach late in the 2019 season, the Colorado Rapids started their upward trajectory (an ascent that arguably began with interim coach Conor Casey). In 2019 they finished 9th in the Western Conference. In 2020, they played fewer games than any other team, but finished the season 5th in the West based on points per game – just ahead of Dallas – before falling to Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs. Despite my personal grudge against them (I haven’t forgiven them for the 2010 MLS Cup Final), this is a team with young talent that has drawn comparisons to the 2019 Philadelphia Union.
And that talent has returned intact for 2021.
Let’s be honest – we’re not sure. The question is whether the young players have leveled up. Is #3 overall draft pick Philip Mayaka ready (he was loaned to USL Colorado Switchbacks)? Are Jonathan Lewis, Sam Vines, and Cole Bassett ready – especially after Lewis and Vines missed time with the Olympic Qualifiers (insert best guess here)?
Who did they bring in during the offseason? Michael Barrios. Two things: 1) don’t look for another name here – their signings mostly came from their academy. 2) We know and love Mikey. But if I were a Colorado fan, I’d be worried if he was the leading scorer in the preseason (with two goals).
Look for Colorado to play in a 4-3-3 with former USMNT keeper William Yarbrough in the net. The Rapids feature a backline of up-and-coming USMNT left back Sam Vines, Lalas Abubakar and Danny Wilson in the middle, and then Keegan Rosenberry on the right. In the midfield, former Dallas Homegrown Kellyn Acosta and Jack Price form a double pivot with Cole Bassett playing the advanced role. Leading the way at the striker position will be either Andre Shinyashiki or Diego Rubio. Similarly, on the wings will be our old friend Michael Barrios (or possibly Jonathan Lewis) and Younes Namli.
Barrios has had a strong preseason with two goals for the Rapids, so though I imagined he would move to a super-sub role this season, he may well get the start as he has in the preseason.
But the player to watch is Cole Bassett. Last season, Bassett led the team with five goals and five assists (Jonathan Lewis had five goals as well and Andre Shinyashiki had four [if you want to compare, Jara had seven and Hollingshead had four for Dallas]). It’s been said before, but the star is the team with the players at the front combining to score goals. However, it’s the 19-year-old Bassett who has attracted the most attention from Europe and he could be following in the steps of Brendan Aaronson as soon as the summer window.
- Colorado 1-0 Phoenix Rising (Goal – Michael Barrios)
- Colorado 2-2 LA Galaxy (Goal – Michael Barrios, Cole Bassett)
- Colorado 0-3 Real Salt Lake
- Colorado 1-0 Sporting Kansas City (Goal – Drew Moor)
Keys to the Match:
1) Limit defensive mistakes:
Given FC Dallas manager Luchi Gonzalez’s penchant for conservative defense, I won’t be surprised if he elects the defensively solid 3-4-3 formation to contain Colorado’s young attackers. But I hope we keep our 4-3-3. Their attackers haven’t been lighting up the scoreboard in the preseason, and our goal needs to be avoiding the mistakes that let Austin back into the game.
2) Boss the midfield:
One of the criticisms of Colorado has been that they don’t put a body on the opposition in the middle of the pitch. I believe Matt Doyle at MLS Extratime asks of them, can they be “hard to play against”? For this reason, I would argue that Dallas – at home – should play a midfield trio that attacks the heart of the Rapids. Going the other way, we need to contain Bassett – not only to limit his ability to provide assists but we need to track his runs into the box. Similarly, Jack Price had five assists last season from his defensive midfield role.
Steve Beitashour has played significant minutes this preseason in place of Sam Vines. If Beitashour’s in the line-up, I hope to see Obrian run right at him. If Vines is playing, then hopefully the Dallas wingers keep him pinned in the back so that he can’t contribute on the offensive end. Dallas scored four goals against Colorado the last time we played. We’ve gotten better. And defensively they’ve stayed the same.
Line-up prediction for Colorado (4-3-3):
Michael Barrios – Andre Shinyashiki – Younes Namli
Kellyn Acosta – Jack Price
Sam Vines – Danny Wilson – Lalas Abubakar – Keegan Rosenberry