Sunday's match should be a win. Colorado amassed the third most losses (14) on the season (Montreal and Chivas TBD both have 18). They do have this little mile high advantage though, so their 6-5-4 home record deserves some respect. Sounders FC is a potent 7-2-6 when away from CenturyLink Field in MLS play. That infers an even match. But one team is on a quest for greatness and the other is trying to figure out if an ancient Englishman is their CB of the future.
SaH: Zat Knight is now a Rapid. That took a while. Who is he and will he play?
BW: Zat Knight is a good old fashioned big center back. He stands somewhere around 6'7'', which immediately makes him one of the tallest guys in the league. He's got EPL experience and a couple of (fluke) England caps under his belt from his long career, and most recently was Bolton's captain in the Championship before being released. He's probably going to immediately slot into the starting CB role alongside Shane O'Neill, providing some semblance of leadership and size in the back that they don't have at the moment with Drew Moor missing. He was known for his streaky play back in his England days, but he'll probably be steadier in the less technical wonderland that is MLS.
SaH: Pablo Mastroeni likes to have players run after matches, what's that about?
SaH: This season should have been different. What one thing would have continued to build on 2013?
BW: I think we all know the answer to that: Had Oscar Pareja not left, the Rapids would likely be a playoff team. He improved once again as a coach in his third season with FC Dallas, and likely would have continued that trajectory with his roster in Colorado, as well. He also drew out his leaving process for so long that it left the Rapids with no chance to do much of a coaching search. They might have gone with Pablo Mastroeni anyway, but you never know what kind of coaching hire they might have made had Pareja's departure taken place the first day of the off-season instead of when it did. Leaving his talented but somewhat flawed roster for a new coach with new ideas was a big risk-reward situation for the Rapids, and the Risk shone through at the end.
Projected Lineup: Clint Irwin (lol jk); Chris Klute, Zat Knight, Shane O'Neill, Marvell Wynne; Dillon Serna, Jose Mari, Nick Labrocca, Some other winger I don't even know; Gabriel Torres, Deshorn Brown
BW: In what has been a season populated with star performances, who is the overall season MVP for the Sounders right now?
SaH: Obafemi Martins, the Seattle Sounders number nine. He's not a man, he's a goal machine.
Sorry about that, got a bit distracted. The thing is that he carried the team when Dempsey wasn't around. Sure, Clint had good reason not to be here, but if it wasn't for the power of Oba this season would be another pretty good one. With Martins the team is competing to have one of the best single seasons in MLS history. He can score; he can assist; he can even provide defensive pressure.
Now, that could change if Seattle goes on a four match winning streak where Clint Dempsey does amazing things.
BW: It's nearly playoff time. What other playoff team (including the two duking it out for the fifth spot at this point) do you think the Sounders best match up against when planning your potential playoff brackets?
SaH: Well, I'd pick Vancouver first because they're mediocre on offense and defense. Then I guess Portland, because they haven't figured out how to stop Seattle's attack this year. Those games would be a shootout, great television and boring blogging, because Sounders-Timbers is something that's already happened four times this season.
BW: When he goes to Spurs, do the Sounders have a replacement ready to take the spot of Deandre Yedlin? Is that something to think about in the off-season?
SaH: Internally that would be Brad Evans. There's some layers of irony there as it was Evans who was the starting RB for the USA at one point and now that seems like it will be Yedlin. There's a chance at new signing Onyekachi Apam could be that answer, but no one has a clue if he can get fit again, or if he winds up as a CB. Seattle may have to look elsewhere to find that man.
Lineup projection: Frei; Evans, Anibaba, Marshall, Yedlin; Neagle, Rose, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins