Sure, the Colorado Rapids hold the MLS Cup and got to meet President Barack Obama at the White House, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking they are a good team. They come to this match merely average, much as they were last year. Yes, they've had some injuries that have reduced their effectiveness, as well as having them count on Tyrone Marshall for 14 starts and Sanna Nyassi for 5 starts. It isn't that they are bad players, but that they both should be supplementary players on a good team.
The Seattle Sounders crowd will not get to see Brian Mullan, but they will get to see Conor Casey who had his own zombie moment at Qwest last year. In this set of three questions we connect with Burgundy Wave to talk about a match that will either cement Seattle in the upper tier or indicate that the Rapids can hold their own with top teams and may pop-up with a Cup again this season.
SaH: The Rapids have been another team beset by injuries to its best attacking players through the early season. How have they coped with those losses?
BW: It's been pretty tough, until the game against Kansas City we hadn't seen Conor Casey and Omar Cummings on the field at the same time since the home opener. Just about every player on the team has missed time and there have been some pretty strange lineups put out by the team to cope. We've even seen guys like Ross LaBeaux - a second year defensive midfielder - playing striker at points in the season, it's been so bad. Fortunately, Andre Akpan and Caleb Folan have stepped up and provided at least a little bit of offense in the interim. The team would probably be better off if Gary Smith would just give up on Quincy 'failed bicycle kick' Amarikwa already, but other than that the Rapids have handled it not well, but not terribly.
SaH: When I think of Colorado I normally think of a solid offense, but it is the defense that has been holding the team to its place in the standings. Who has been the power behind the defense?
BW: Drew Moor, plain and simple. The guy is one of the most underrated players in the league, putting in complete and solid performances at every spot in the defense week in and week out. He's played center back and left back, being the best at both positions on the squad. It's been helped a little bit by former Sounder Tyrone Marshall finding the fountain of youth and playing fantastically, but if the team ever plays without Moor, they're going to be a lot worse for it. He's simply the best player on the team.
SaH: While altitude gets all the attention at home, Colorado has been a very good road team so far this year, how?
BW: In all honesty, it's been mostly luck in the road wins. Against Houston the Rapids won because of a giant mistake by Tally Hall that allowed Jamie Smith to score from 40 yards out on a free kick and a goal from Scott 'giveth and taketh away' Palguta. The Portland away match should probably have been a tie if not for a goal at the death by Drew Moor on a free kick that was bouncing all around the box before getting stuck in. The record is also boosted quite a bit by the draw streak that the Rapids have put on this season. It's going to take a bit more than that to be a really 'good' road team, but at this point we're really just taking the points.
SaH with a Bonus Question: Because we must. Would you start Brian Mullan or even travel him if you were in charge?
BW: Personally I'm of the mind that the best 11 players should play every game that they can, and Brian is the best winger next to Jamie Smith on the team right now even with the dip in his play as of late. I probably wouldn't play him the entire 90 minutes or maybe even start him, but he would certainly play a good chunk of time if I were in charge. That said, it's looking like he won't be starting so my projected starting XI will reflect that. (I picked Nyassi over Wells Thompson simply because Gary Smith is going to need to look for goals in this match.)
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BW: How has the Sounders offense changed with Steve Zakuani out as the season has progressed along?
SaH: With the discovery of Mauro Rosales the speed on the flanks role has become his. Overall though Seattle has become more of a pass-and-run team now. The clearest demonstration was against the Galaxy in the Open Cup game when wave after wave of attack came and it could start from multiple angles and would end with shots from differing spots. This is a stronger team now than it was then, and will only be better when Zakuani himself is on the pitch.
BW: Will winning another Open Cup (and most likely the Cascadia Cup at this rate) be enough to satiate Sounders fans again this season or is this the year that it's bigger trophies or bust?
SaH: I think people want more and so it really depends on the where the team ranks on the single table and the performance in the Playoffs, as well as how Seattle does in the Champions League. If they make it out of the Group Stage and win the Open Cup everything will be just fine.
BW: Would you guys please take Danny Earls back?
SaH: No. Tyson Wahl has emerged as a fairly strong defensive left back, but he may be a top five taker of free kicks and corners now. He isn't Beckham, Donovan, Davis or Jewsbury, but against anyone else he can hold his own. He has scored from a free and has two assists from corners. He entered the season as the second left back to Leo Gonzalez. Then there's also Michael Tetteh. The team is set at left back.
BW Bonus: Let's pretend you're in charge instead, what do you do in regards to Mullan?
SaH: I'm going to assume that he's starting quality of health, I still wouldn't play him. Maybe I've got a little Jason Kreis in me, but the team should be the center of attention and if Brian Mullan comes to Seattle that wouldn't be the case. Every moment would be about that incident, and that would be inappropriate for both teams. The Rapids, and even Brian Mullan, shouldn't be defined by that one brutal moment.