Sounders at Colorado Rapids: Three Questions

Another winter storm is coming through midweek, but should warm up by Saturday. - Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's 3 PM match pits the Seattle Sounders against one of the teams with the best home-field advantages in American sports. The Rapids put that fact right on their shirt collar. They are also one of the eighteen teams with a better record than the Sounders.

The memory of the Colorado Rapids is as a thuggish team. They had slow, plodding style of play. This was amplified by what happened when Brian Mullan went in hard and heavy on Steve Zakuani. Those memories are wrong. While Colorado has yet to reach the heights they did under that style, they have changed. Oscar Pareja is changing the club. Most of the players from the MLS Cup winning side are gone. Now in year two of the process they are younger, faster, more technical. The Rapids also are on pace to win the same amount of games they did in Pareja year one. Unlike Seattle they are scoring goals as they fail to get their desired results.

Joining us for Three Questions is Bulldog Ben of Burgundy Wave.

SaH: So Brian Mullan - no, not that - he's an outside back now. What does he bring to the team in that role?

BW: Brian Mullan at the back position. Wow. Well, what I've found out about Brian Mullan in the past few years since Oscar Pareja took over is that he's one boss soccer player. He's been everywhere for the past three years: a winger in the midfield, an inside forward, and now he's having a go as an attacking fullback.Thus far? Results have been kind of mixed. True he brings some good attacking width and he's a hell of a player, but he's been defensively weak. Both our fullbacks have. Last game, Chris Klute, one of our RapKids, got consistently burned by Eric Avila. That's bad news. But Avila is also a [censored] good player. So I don't know. All I know is I feel a lot better with Wynne at the right back position. Left Back is still a toss up for me.

I know Sounders fan will hate him forever, but the transformation and rebirth he's had under Pareja is kind of inspiring. He's a totally different guy now, the player that he was always meant to be since he started. Sort of a Darth Vader -- Anakin Skywalker story, only, think of Dom Kinnear as Emperor Palpatine

I know I always do.

SaH: Wynne is shifting around a bit lately. Is the defense unsettled? While they're only giving up a goal a game is it exploitable?

BW: The Colorado defense is exploitable in two main areas: good wing play and set pieces. Most of the goals against us have come on set pieces, this is because the defense, all told, is still quite young and inexperienced. And while I think our rising HomeGrown product Shane O'Neill is more than capable to hold his own as a Centerback (and he's only 19 years old, holy [censored], right?) he's still a teenager and he shows it in some of his carelessness. If I wanted to get my ass a penalty, I'd have a go right at Shane and try to make him out-think me. More than likely, when you out-smart someone in MLS, his response is to out-muscle you. And when that happens in the 18, penalties happen. So some clever play in the center could be Colorado's undoing. Drew Moor, I think, has learned from his moment of madness in LA, and has gotten his [censored] together since then, so I wouldn't go barking up that tree.

Good wing play we already discussed. Gave you a Star Wars reference for your trouble. How do you like me now?

SaH: There are so many new names on the roster. Many picked up through the draft, but also trades and internationals that are new to Colorado. Who in the youth movement most excites the fanbase?

BW: Dude, I can't even tell you who I'm most excited about. I'm excited about [censored] I haven't even SEEN yet. What does that tell you? No. Really though. It's quite astounding how the RapKids have acquitted themselves thus far in this trial by fire they've been going though. Put it to you this way, as far as Draft Picks go, I full expect Dillon Powers to move to Europe at some point, same with DeShorn Brown. I expect both will be representing their respective countries in international competition.

Brown is, simply put, the most electrifying player in MLS today. Period. There is no one more exciting to watch than DeShorn Brown. He makes top ten lists with only having scored 2 damn goals. 1 from a penalty spot. He's a great kid and has such personality and passion when he plays. He's the kind of guy who scores goals on you, and you almost like it. Almost. Promise.

Powers is the real deal. American Xavi. This guy has vision, leadership, poise, you name it. And his connection with Brown is now getting scary. If you've got time, watch over that last Chivas game. Powers ALWAYS knows where Brown is and picks him out in some deadly positions. This is the kind of player Powers is, like Martin Rivero or Mauro Rosales: he makes other players around him look good. That's what he's all about. So while Dillon might not get the highlight reel, he'll be there. So impressed with him.

Shane O'Neill has been just... I don't even know man. I don't even [censored] know. We're all so proud of him because he's a local guy (I actually used to hang out at his family's restaurant in Boulder), so that kind of skews things a bit. But he's shown maturity and commitment at his position, in addition to being physically able to meet the demands of a Centerback in this league.

Clint Irwin though is the guy who gives all the Rapids fans chills. This guy is absolutely real deal type [censored]. Two words: Marcus Hahnemann. You get me?

So for different reasons, we get psyched about the RapKids. Honestly, they've been the best part about this year. Very grateful at the end of the day that they are our players and not anyone else's!

Significant Injuries (sorry, I know it is a long list): Clown question, bro.
[editor] The list is quite long, it may even be worse today than yesterday when we exchanged the Q&A. We'll check back in as the week progresses.

Projected Lineup:4-4-2 (though who are we kidding right? probably going to be playing more like 4-3-3)
wynne--moor--o'neill--mullan
thomas--labrocca--powers
Brown--Buddle--Harris

* * *

reverse

BW: I had the Sounders picked in my bold preseason predictions to be the team to beat this year, winning the MLS Cup and contending for the SS, so what the heck happened? Was there something in the tea leaves that I just wasn't reading, or has this surprised those close to the team as much as the rest of us?

SaH: There was a time when I thought the same. And while I'm confident this team is better than its record shows I am no longer confident that there will be a trophy in 2013. There are things to fix. The club has used too many forwards and none too effectively. A couple players were benched because they failed to give proper effort. The injuries are piled up. Seattle got that huge win in the CONCACAF Champions League, which was neat, but has too much more to do. A strong defense, strong keeper and possession is there. Chance creation is there. But a key element to soccer is not there - goal scoring.

Maybe I'd be happy with a three-three draw just because it would should an improvement in that area. That would leave Seattle with only a single win in any competition (even counting Reserves!). This is not even the worst stretch of play by the Sounders. Just last year they went nine MLS games without a win. Some could argue that the team looks worse now, but nine is much bigger than four.

BW: The last game, the Sounders put on a real show against New England and were very unfortunate to not come away with more than a point. Huge surge of activity in the attacking third but no finishing. Unlike the Revs, the Rapids actually have a midfield. What do you think the key is for the Sounders to keep having a ball in the Rapids' final third, and who, to you, are the key matchups in midfield that will determine who wins the battles that determine who goes forward?

SaH: Recently Sigi moved to a structure that reduces the attacking heft of the midfield and inserts a wide midfielder who plays a little defense. That's almost certain to be Brad Evans' role on Saturday. The attack will come through the other starting wide mid and throughballs from Shalrie Joseph. That should pressure the Rapids' right side fairly well while clogging the center with Osvaldo Alonso and Shalrie Joseph. The club that switches to the left most effectively should create the most opportunities. Seattle should have the advantage there.

That midfield advantage will mean nothing if the forwards don't finish. Which I said above, but the finishing is really horrid lately.

BW: I don't know if this is a coincidence or what, but the Sounders really seem to press the game consistently in the 70-80th minute stretch this season (regardless of whenever else they press). How do you think that will work in Colorado with the altitude effects setting in around that 70th minute, thus making the Sounders perhaps less likely to play the kind of quick movement offensive game that usually brings them a lot of attacking success? Or do you think they change it up, maybe try to play a more patient game with slower buildup to overcome the effects of altitude?

SaH: Seattle is likely to push for an early goal. The lack of success and finally having a normal Saturday/Saturday week should mean they are energetic to start. Seattle has lacked energy in only two halves (2nd v Portland, 1st v RSL) of this stretch though. That is not the problem. If they don't get that goal Sigi will need to make subs earlier than usual. Yes, every visiting club should do this. But with the performance of Seattle so far he can't count on a tired, more talented player to do things they have yet to do on the year.

Lamar Neagle is exactly the type of player who should play well in Colorado. He's all energy and effort with a little bit a defensive persistence in there to keep a backline offense.

BW: Anyone on the Rapids scare you as much as Yeldin and Zak scare me?

Oddly Wynne is the type of CB that should match well with Seattle's speedy forward pair. Both Martins and Johnson are speedsters. They almost always have the advantage. One of them won't on Saturday. They'll need to adapt.

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