Saturday's match at Colorado will be the final meeting between the Sounders and the Rapids. KONG 6/16 will broadcast the match with typical Spanish language and radio coverage as well. The two sides are nearly completely opposite in form. Where the Colorado Rapids have lost five straight (OK, they beat Swansea), the Seattle Sounders are in a stretch of four unbeaten, though with only one win. The Rapids should be a much more average team than they are with only a negative 3 goal differential.
Seattle should be a bit better than they are, but only by a couple of points. After the last meeting between the two teams there aren't off-field storylines. This is merely a mile high match between a decent team in the West and a Western team that is well on the outside of the MLS Cup Playoffs. To help Sounder at Heart preview the match is UZ from Burgundy Wave with Three Questions.
SaH: The Rapids losing streak includes good teams and bad teams. Is there a single cause?
BW: Not really, there's a couple of different issues plaguing the team right now. Part of the problem is that the team, while trying to change from Gary Smith's system to Oscar Pareja's system, has had quite a few players exposed. Without Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz playing nothing but defense in the center of midfield, the center back tandem has looked a lot less invincible than before. Omar Cummings continues to sink in form without having Conor Casey covering for him at every moment, etc. Many of the problems seem to be mental, with the team blowing up after allowing opponents to score goals. These are things that should fix themselves as the team finally starts to learn how to play the game competently under Pareja's system -- it turns out that it's pretty hard to turn Stoke into Arsenal. Like we've been saying for months, 2013 is when Pareja will really get his marks, right now all of the mental, chemistry and playing issues that the team are facing are, while a bit more exaggerated than we expected, not surprising.
SaH: What does the loss of Kosuke Kimura mean?
BW: Not much in the long run. Kimura showed that he couldn't play in Oscar Pareja's system at all, mainly because he can't defend. That's a somewhat important skill for a right back who's not being called to run forward over and over again like Kimura was under Gary Smith. They seem to have his replacement in the system as well in Davy Armstrong, so the loss of Kimura means essentially nothing except for giving some of the more fickle fans something else to complain about. It has been pretty fun watching him stink up the joint defensively in Portland, though.
SaH: With the performance of the youth against Swansea is it time for a rebuild?
BW: Nah. It's foolish to take anything away from a victory over a team that hadn't played together for months and was playing at about 20% full capacity. Shane O'Neill and Davy Armstrong were exciting players in that match, but I doubt either of them would have performances quite that good against a team like the Sounders playing with their engines at 100%. Honestly, there has been something of a very slow rebuild going through the team as the season has gone along but there's no reason to gut everyone else out of the squad just because the first win in a while has come in a meaningless friendly.
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BW: Steve Zakuani coming onto the field and trading shirts with Brian Mullan was a great moment at the end of our last match. How has he been progressing since that first appearance? Is he likely to start Saturday?
SaH: Zakuani came on as a sub against Chelsea as well. Similar to his time against the Rapids, he played at a forward spot. This year he may just be a bench forward that offers speed and decent shot. His endurance still doesn't seem up to the standards expected out on the left wing and his touch is still a bit off though developing. I expect he'll be in the 18 just because the other forward option on the bench is Sammy Ochoa.
BW: With a somewhat congested schedule for the rest of the season, do you think the Sounders can find the stuff to sneak back into the Supporters Shield race after that mid-season slump?
SaH: There's still a chance, though fairly distant. Seattle tends to play better in crowded circumstances, has a history post transfer window of earning about two points a match and is getting starting keeper Michael Gspurning back which should improve the defense a bit. The key to a second half run will be the performance of wingers Alvaro Fernandez and Mauro Rosales. If those two play to their potential Seattle is as good as any team in the league and can get 8+ wins in their last 14. Doing that in the West would challenge the Shield, or at least the top spot in the Conference. If not the Sounders are just in the Galaxy/Whitecaps space of a 3/4/5 seed and looking at must win road games in the playoffs again.
BW: There were some murmurs earlier in the month about the Sounders looking for yet another DP with Alvaro Fernandez possibly leaving. How has that progressed?
SaH: The rumored loan of Fernandez to Deportivo Cali is now rumored to have fallen through. Seattle is certainly looking at adding talent still. They are connected with Joan Verdu of Espanyol (29 year old CM) and Christian Tiffert of Kaiserslautern (30 year old CM). But if they do add one of these two or someone like them at the loss of Alvaro it would increase the strength of the center while greatly weakening the quality on the left side. Hooray for the 3 DP rule!