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Scouting Report: Are the Colorado Rapids still the team to beat?

Some how the Rapids won the West last year but FC Dallas should be poised to handle them well on Saturday.

MLS: FC Dallas at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Just so I’m clear: in response to Drew’s comments last week regarding the Brimstone Cup (that it’s inconsequential because we focus on Western Conference rivalries), I don’t care about Chicago. I want to beat the Colorado Rapids. I can’t get beyond the Geroge John own goal in the 2010 MLS Cup Final and the brutishly physical way that Colorado team played. I want to beat them every time we play. I want to run up the score. I want them to melt in the Texas sun. I want former Dallas players to cry themselves to sleep when they realize they play for Colorado (except for former Rapid Kellyn Acosta – he can come home). #stillbitter

Speaking of Kellyn, he was one of several Rapids players to exit Dick Sporting Goods Park in the offseason. The underwhelming Younes Namli was not retained nor was Dominic Badji (exiled to Cincinnati). Auston Trusty was transferred to Arsenal but remains with the team on loan for the first half of the season. Also, Cole Bassett took an 18-month loan with Feyenoord. To replace them, Colorado signed Mark-Anthony Kaye last year and then in the offseason signed... Bryan Acosta. And then 20-year-old Brazilian Max Alves to U22 contract (67 minutes so far; no goals or assists). For those waiting for the club to sign a #9, the wait continues.

Recent Results

Date Home Score Away
Date Home Score Away
2/26 LAFC 3-0 Colorado
3/5 Colorado 3-0 Atlanta
3/12 Colorado 2-0 Sporting KC
3/19 Houston 1-1 Colorado
4/2 Colorado 1-1 Real Salt Lake

The Rapids and coach Robin Fraser enter the fray with a record of 2W-1L-2D – good for 6th in the Western Conference (tied on points with FC Dallas but the good guys are ahead on goal differential).

Not going to lie... that match against Salt Lake... kind of a snoozefest. I really hate watching three in the back. Colorado wingbacks Keegan Rosenberry and Lucas Estevez are mostly ahead of the midfield in their 3-4-3, which, admittedly, they pull off far better than Dallas did last year. The attack is by committee with Jonathon Lewis, Diego Rubio, and Michael Barrios frequently switching roles – but the danger here is in losing track of them individually. None of them have proven to be particularly dangerous. They have three goals and three assists collectively. In that vein, nearly half of their shot attempts last week came from outside the box but they have scored zero goals from outside the penalty area this season.

Note that #7 Jonathon Lewis and #11 Diego Rubio are practically interchangeable. Frequently it seems that Lewis and Barrios pinch in like advanced 8s moving into the half-spaces while the wingbacks move up to play like actual wingers. Less frequently Roseberry and Estevez slipped into the half-spaces underneath while the wingers spread wide. However, given all of that misdirection, the attack is still lackluster. Colorado has the 5th fewest passes in the opposition half in the league – they aren’t trying to possess the ball. They attack at speed and then recover. Robin Fraser has opted to focus on strong defense with three center backs and two defensive midfielders right in front of them. In this week’s Power Rankings, Sam Jones commented that it wasn’t worth commenting on the Rapids’ DP situation - i.e., they don’t have a #9 even though pundits have been talking about it for years. Moreover, Colorado’s lone goal in the match came from Lalas Abubakar after RSL failed to clear a free kick. The PK was drawn by Justin Meram in the dying moments of the first half... he milked it for all it was worth, so maybe it should have been a grind-it-out kind of win for Colorado... but... Meh.

Looking back at previous results, in the 1-1 draw with Houston the Rapids had the better play but their only goal came when Houston failed to mark Mark-Anthony Kaye at the back post on a corner. They had chances from the run of play, but they couldn’t finish. Against Sporting, Diego Rubio slipped through the defense for one and Kaye scored the second from another corner. It always seems to come back to the lack of a dependable goal scorer.

Player Notes for Colorado:

Honestly, the key to Colorado’s success has been Robin Fraser’s ability to do more with less. This is the case where the team truly is the star.

  1. Mark Anthony Kaye: tied for the team league with two goals, the Canadian international is also among the team leaders in touches and key passes
  2. Jack Price: the veteran midfielder contributed 12 assists in last year’s campaign. He is the primary free-kick taker and he has one of the best beards in the league. But more importantly, he is the team leader in passes per game – especially passes in the other team’s half. Look for him to place 1-2 pinpoint crosses on the break.
  3. Michael Barrios: Would you believe that he was the team’s leading scorer last season? He’s been dangerous against us before, so I’m wary that he will do it again.

Line Up Prediction:

Lewis – Rubio – Barrios
Esteves – Kaye – Price – Rosenberry
Trusty – Wilson – Abubakar

Injury List:

OUT: Braian Galván (right knee), Aboubacar Keita (torn ACL right knee), Oliver Larraz (right leg)

  • QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Esteves (hamstring)

Game Time:

4/9 at Toyota Stadium. Kick off at 7:30. Should be in the mid 80s and sunny.