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Sounders v Colorado Rapids - MLS Cup Playoff Three Questions

Seattle's 1-1-1 -3 record against Colorado this year does not bode well entering the MLS Cup Playoff Western Conference Knockout Round. It is a match between two teams that are ready to start their seasons anew as neither side is "on form" at this time.

With eyes on a higher target, Evans and Sounders look to Colorado first.
With eyes on a higher target, Evans and Sounders look to Colorado first.

If you are not going to be at the match you will have plenty of ways to watch it. In the Greater Puget Sound KONG 6/16 will carry it over the air. Root Sports will show it throughout the Northwest and NBC Sports will pick up the Fletcher/Keller-cast for the rest of the nation. It will also be on KOMO2 in Spanish. The Colorado Rapids are not the draw. Seattle Sounders FC's stars are.

Chris from the Burgundy Wave helps us through Three Questions for a fourth time on the year.

SaH: What lessons will the Rapids take from crushing Seattle's dreams?

BW: I don't know if there are any lessons to be taken from it, really. That was an outlier match, something that may be in the back of Seattle's mind when the game starts on Wednesday, but not something that should be overly analyzed. Everything we learned in that game was stuff we already knew. When Deshorn Brown is hitting on all cylinders, he's nearly impossible to stop. Good play down the wings is the bread and butter of Colorado's attack. Nathan Sturgis and Hendry Thomas are good soccer players. All that sort of stuff.

SaH: Who in particular struggles on the road or is it a team wide issue (all team have this issue it seems)?

BW: There's no single issue to be pinpointed when looking at Colorado's struggles on the road. The entire team just seems to play a half-step worse than they do at home, and that half-step is usually enough to take them down. The defense seems to lack the cohesion that they have at home and the offense seems to misfire just a bit more often. Like you said though, that seems to be a league-wide issue.

If I'm going to pick one reason, I might say Oscar Pareja's tactics have been at fault more than once. He's gotten much better at this from last year to this year, but he tends to overthink himself when he's not at home, putting out overly defensive lineups or lineups with players in odd positions -- see Gabriel Torres playing as an attacking midfielder against Vancouver? -- which hurts the team in the long run at times. Since depth on the attack is the biggest issue with the team overall, it very much does matter when a guy like Atiba Harris or Nick Labrocca is stuck in at striker instead of a Vicente Sanchez or Deshorn Brown.

Fortunately for us, I think being in the playoffs will put him into attack mode and we'll see the closest we can get to a first-choice lineup in a do-or-die affair.

SaH: If Colorado is to go on an MLS Cup run which player will fuel that?

BW:The easy answer here would be either Vicente Sanchez or Gabriel Torres, the two mid-season pickups that immediately boosted the Rapids offense from shaky to pretty good when they came in. However, I'm going to take a slightly different route and say that it's Deshorn Brown who will need to make the difference.

The reason why we think Brown can become a special player in MLS was on display the last time you guys saw him. He's crafty, has enough pace to take on any defender in the league and pairs that with a lot more strength than you'd expect from a Jamaican speedster. When he's been on target this year, the Rapids have followed suit. When he's misfired (see the start of the season where the entire team was misfiring and the long winless streak that the Rapids endured during the summer) the Rapids have as well. If he is able to turn up the jets, it opens the entire rest of the offense up as the other team is forced to pay attention to Brown. If he's misfiring though, it should be easy to keep Colorado's O in check. (Indeed, Seattle used the 'hack-a-Brown' strategy to perfection in that 1-1 draw earlier this season!)

Significant Absences: Dillon Powers is the big one. He's missed a few matches with concussion symptoms and though he made the trip to Vancouver, he did not make the starting 18. Vicente Sanchez was also held out of that match, but I expect that was more of a precautionary measure. He seems likely to play. Past those two, the only injuries on the team are to Kory Kindle and Davy Armstrong, two guys who you were never going to see anyway.

Projected Lineup: (4-2-3-1) Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Shane O'Neill, Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne; Hendry Thomas, Nathan Sturgis; Deshorn Brown, Martin Rivero, Vicente Sanchez; Gabriel Torres

* * *


BW: Since we last met, there's been a... bit of a dip in form from the Sounders. What's the biggest reason for the sudden spat of bad results leading into the playoffs?

SaH: I think if there was one easy answer it would have been fixed already. It clearly hasn't been fixed. While the team is performing better than they were it still isn't right. Problem the first, getting numbers sucked forward while facing youthful speedsters. Maybe Seattle uses tactical fouls a bit better now. Problem the second, getting the ball to the forwards in dangerous areas. Using Clint as a CAM in the diamond may have solved that. Problem the third, health. The team is much healthier than it was and may be as close to full health as they'll get until the offseason. Problem the fourth, depth. With more health Sigi will have options off the bench that are capable of changing games. That's something unseen for some time here. Still, it is only better. The next month will determine if it is good enough.

BW: Clint Dempsey finally found the net! Do you think that will break the proverbial dam, or that he'll stay relatively snakebitten only to find his form next year?

SaH: The team and Clint are figuring this 'playing with Dempsey' thing out. The fanbase seemed to think that he would just waltz in and do whatever he wanted. This team game took some time to develop. His passing and awareness of his teammates is better. Those same teammates are starting to learn that than can be more aggressive taking spaces because the passes Dempsey can make are better than they are used to seeing. One of the great things about Playoffs is that a team can ride one great player. Seattle has a great player. It's time to ride him.

BW: There's been a lot of talk about Sigi's job come the end of the year. Is it all just talk, and if it's not, what's the bare minimum that his team needs to accomplish for him to keep it? Just beating Colorado? Any deep playoff run? MLS Cup?

SaH: Both lead owner Joe Roth and owner/GM Adrian Hanauer have said that they will not make the decision to retain or release Sigi based off of just the Playoffs. That makes answering this question a bit tough. Sigi had a poor regular season by Seattle standards. How much of that was his fault and how much of it was because of injuries and other absences? If Sigi gets hot and goes on a deep run it's pretty certain he's staying. If the team struggles in an early round (this or the next) then things get complicated. It's a discussion that is ripping through every comments section at Sounder at Heart and honestly, no one really knows the answer.

Significant Absences: Steve Zakuani is out. Shalrie Joseph is almost certainly out, but even if he wasn't he'd be a deep bench player now. The biggest injury question is can Obafemi Martins play on Wednesday night. Sigi indicated after Monday's practice that Tuesday would be the day that decides it. He almost certainly won't tell the world what that decision is.

Projected Lineup: Gspurning; Gonzalez, Traore, Hurtado, Yedlin; Alonso; Evans, Rosales; Dempsey; Johnson, Martins

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