History says that Seattle Sounders FC are very good against the Colorado Rapids. History is a liar. The 8-1-2 +9 MLS record all time that Seattle earned against the Rapids has little to do with the current Colorado club. This is the club that looks to be quite good and young enough to be good for some time.
They are on the verge of making the MLS Cup Playoffs. Five players have four or more league goals. Then there's the whole playing at elevation thing. It's real. Seattle's good road record comes with a caveat; they are one of the worst scoring teams in the league on the road.
Burgundy Wave's Chris is our guide through Three Questions.
SaH: Who are the players that thrive in your mile high home?
BW: So far, the team hasn't had any particular standouts just at home or just on the road. The players that have played well have played well just about everywhere, while the players that have been shaky have done the same. I'm going to go with Deshorn Brown as my answer here. The kid seems to have that extra umph in his step when he's got the home crowd behind him, and it doesn't hurt that his superb speed catches opponents just that half-step more by surprise when it's at Altitude.
SaH: Chris Klute versus Yedlin could wind up a fascinating look at the future of American fullbacks. What's Klute's story and how has he adapted to this level?
BW: Klute is one of the nice success stories of late. He was barely a professional soccer player two years ago, sticking on only as a reserve with the Atlanta Silverbacks. He was the archetypical kid who got noticed in some of the youth USMNT ranks, never quite managed to stick, and then got lost in the shuffle before playing for a bunch of smaller teams throughout the country. Fortunately, Eric Wynalda has a pretty good eye for talent. When he took over the Silverbacks he immediately took note of Klute's great mix of both defensive ability and pace, and was able to convince the team that Klute was a keeper before he ended up leaving. Klute had only a couple of appearances for the Silverbacks to start 2012, but he was able to catch the eye of the Rapids. The rest, as they say, is history in the making.
The kid has always had great pace and great defensive ability for a youngster, but what's propelled him into the starting spot this season -- a spot that we're hoping he's going to hold down for years to come -- is the fact that he's turned an incredible corner in terms of his crossing ability in his less than a year of service with the team. His seven assists lead the team, and he'd likely have a few more if this team's Achilles Heel wasn't finishing. That's the reason people are saying he's the best left back in MLS right now, he's one of the only American left backs at the moment that aren't simply specialists at the cross or stay at home defenders. He's a true Jack of all trades, and he has the potential to be a master of quite a few of them.
SaH: Reader Adam asks - Many young guys tend to burn out at this time of the season; will this affect Colorado in these final weeks of the regular season?
BW: That's the fear, isn't it? As of right now, the Rapids have seen no real showings of fatigue from their youngsters, which is a good sign. Oscar Pareja has been smart at doling out the minutes around the team; only one of the four players on the team with over 2000 minutes is a rookie -- Clint Irwin notwithstanding, since he's a goalkeeper -- that being the seemingly untireable Dillon Powers. There's no guarantee that we won't see the fatigue start to set in over the coming weeks though. Even if it does happen, Colorado is a team that is deep enough to the point where it won't be an absolute disaster. Just about everyone has a replacement that can come in if they're looking like they can't get another game in, and there are a few of the youngsters (Rivero, Cascio, Mwanga) who have scarcely seen any time this year and would be glad to step in.
Significant Absences (injury, suspension, etc): None at the moment. Only Kory Kindle and Davy Armstrong are missing because of injury, and neither were guys you were ever going to see anyway.
4-2-3-1 -- Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Drew Moor, Shane O'Neill, Marvell Wynne; Hendry Thomas, Nathan Sturgis; Deshorn Brown, Dillon Powers, Vicente Sanchez; Gabriel Torres
BW: Since they came into the league around the same time, Clint Dempsey has had a similar start to Gabriel Torres. Neither team has struggled with the player in the side, but neither has put a point on the board yet. How has Dempsey contributed to the Sounder cause, even without getting on the scoresheet?
SaH: Dempsey has been more of a morale boost than anything. It was proof to everyone that this team is going for everything. Not only is Dempsey doing crazy moves, it spread down through the roster. Fancy little moves and goals are getting scored throughout the talent level of the squad. The only real change was adding Clint.
It's kind of odd that the highest paid player in the league is basically a talisman, but let's rewind to the beginning of the season when the Sounders were already on people's short lists to win the MLS Cup. Many already thought the talent was there (or is that here?). The team got a bit healthier and added the shiniest of things.
BW: Since we gave you the story on Klute, how about some history on Yedlin?
SaH: A few short years ago the Seattle Sounders started their Academy. From that moment DeAndre Yedlin was the most talented player on the field. He was playing for a local private school and the U-18 Academy and pretty much demonstrating that he would not be long at Akron.
When Seattle signed him after just 18 months of college (two seasons) the "plan" was that he would be a backup to either of Adam Johansson (Sweden's 2nd RB) or Brad Evans. Yedlin then earned the starting role and hasn't looked back. He still has holes in his game - most particularly his crossing and one-on-one defense. He's as fast as fast, has strong dribbling skills and his positioning on defense has improved greatly.
He's the first of a bright future coming up through the Academy ranks.
BW: Similar to the Rapids, you guys seem to have a goals by committee thing going. (Of course, yours has scored more overall.) Who would you say is the most dangerous man on the attack when the Sounders are fully healthy?
SaH: I'm certain that it will eventually be Clint Dempsey, but it isn't right now. Right now that's really a toss up. Eddie Johnson is the best in the air, maybe the best in the league in the air, maybe ever. So on set-plays and when the run-of-play allows it he scores with his head.
Obafemi Martins does crazy stuff that is a mix of creative and poacher. He'll pop up out of nowhere, work a wicked move and finish simply because the defenders are no longer present. Lamar Neagle is the hard worker, the distance shooter. He may not be this good, but the numbers, the glorious numbers.
Who is the best? I don't know. The one that scores this weekend.
Significant Absences (injury, suspension, etc): Shalrie Joseph. Leo Gonzalez. Djimi Traore. Clint Dempsey, maybe.
Projected Lineup: Gspurning; Burch, Hurtado, Scott, Yedlin; Alonso; Neagle, Evans, Rosales; Johnson, Martins.