The Colorado Rapids are in the kind of slump that gets coaches fired. They've lost five of their last six. The other match was merely a draw. One-time favorites to make the playoffs Mastroeni's men are now trying to figure out how to claw their way back above the red line.
Chris from Burgundy Wave answers Three Questions, including the most important, what's going on with the centerbacks.
SaH: What's going on at centerback and who is going to have to try and stop Clint & Oba?
BW: Remember back in 2013 when the Rapids started off the season with like 11 major injuries to important players and had to rely on youth from around the team to keep themselves propped up? That's happening again, except it's late in the season and seems to be exclusively trainwrecking the defense. Drew Moor and Shane O'Neill, both of our normal starting CBs, are out with injury, Moor's being a torn ACL that is going to keep him out for the rest of the year. Rookie back-up Jared Watts, who hasn't even been playing particularly well this year, is also out with injury. Gale Agbossoumonde, who the Rapids traded for a while back, might be injured. We're not quite sure, because we heard he was injured at one point, and then stopped hearing it, but haven't seen hide nor hair of him either way. Grant van de Casteele, Colorado's 19th-overall pick in the draft, is about the only guy left who can list CB as a natural position.
Oh, and Marvell Wynne keeps getting starts at center back because Pablo Mastroeni still remembers 2010, when Marvell Wynne looked like a decent center back mostly because he was always bailed out by Pablo Mastroeni. I would assume that the CB pairing is going to be Wynne and Grant van de Casteele, who was thrown into the meat grinder last weekend against LA and looked about as good as one would assume a late first-round center back would look in his first appearance against a team with Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. If the Sounders don't score at least three, they should probably be publicly flogged.
SaH: Dillon Serna had that wondergoal, Dillon Powers is still amazing, Dillon Brown leads the team in goals. Damn, that's a lot of Dillon in that attack (I made a funny). How come these three aren't starting every game?
BW: Oh, the fun I would have if Deshorn Brown's name actually was Dillon. We've had way too much fun already with the Serna/Powers combo being potentially the two best future players on the team. To answer your question, Powers and Brown are essentially locks to start every game, though the Rapids have had an unfortunate tendency since drafting Brown to start him as a center forward, which gives them an excuse to just loft balls in the air towards him. That sometimes works, but he's far better as a wide or deep-lying forward who can collect the ball in space or run at defenders.
As for Serna, he's been getting more chances as the weeks have gone by and by next year I think we'll be seeing him just about every match. He's outplayed just about everyone else other than Vicente Sanchez at the wing position when he's been in this season.
SaH: Clint Irwin's starting to get known for his writing and social media presence. What's he like as a person?
BW: Irwin is a fantastic guy in just about every semblance of the word. He loves to interact with the fans both in real life and on the social media outlets, and he's quickly grown into one of the Rapids' best ambassadors for the team. Last season, he was the one who seemed most excited about winning the Rocky Mountain Cup back from RSL. He's very smart, knows the game well and having come from a position where few players can boost themselves into an MLS starting job as quickly as he did, is clearly very grateful for every second that he gets to spend where he is. We love him here, and he's clearly one of the players that the Rapids are building their marketing around these days for good reason.
He's also a darn good goalkeeper, which is the reason why Colorado has both one of the leakiest defenses in the entire league at the moment and also the most shutouts.
Projected lineup: I don't even know at this point. Uh... (4-4-2) Clint Irwin; Chris Klute, Marvell Wynne, Grant van de Casteele, Thomas Piermayr; Dillon Serna, Dillon Powers, Nick Labrocca, Vicente Sanchez; Deshorn Brown, Gabriel Torres
BW: Earlier in the season, the narrative for Seattle seemed to be the ol' Liverpool narrative: super offense, mediocre defense. Is that still true as we get into the homestretch?
SaH: There's no doubt that the offense is still potent. It went through a bit of a swoon during the recent slump and in many ways was more to blame than the defense was poor back when the team was at its hottest. The thing to understand about Seattle is that though old, it plays a very up-tempo game trying to jam the ball down the throats of the opponents. That pace leads to many opportunities to score, but it also opens them up to counters. Osvaldo Alonso and Chad Marshall are great defensive players, but if they are under constant pressure they can still give up goals.
The key for Seattle will not be finding balance, but instead to fully commit to their philosophy. It means that going down a goal doesn't matter. They will score. They will likely outscore their opponent. It's really scary and exciting at the same time, but getting players like Clint and Oba a few extra touches a game is pretty magical.
BW: Past the Dempsey-Martins partnership, who's the most dangerous man to look out for on the Sounders?
SaH: Right now it's Chad Barrett. That surprises us too. The hybrid forward/winger plays quite direct. Every action is towards goal and he's nailed seven of those in league play. Chad's been a bit of a journeyman and here in Seattle he was expected to be deep depth behind Oba, Clint, Cooper, and Neagle. And in many ways he is, but his lack of playing time isn't holding him back. He's second in the league in minutes per goal (Wright-Phillips leads). Barrett won't make it look pretty but he will threaten the goal and probably score. He's done that in four straight matches in all competitions.
BW: The gap has closed a bit after Seattle seemed sure Shield winners earlier in the year. Who do you see as the biggest competition for the Shield down to the wire?
SaH: LA and KC. The good news for Seattle fans is that the season ends with two matches against the Galaxy. So if LA and Seattle are still in the running for the Shield both will control their destiny. The bad news for Sounders fans is that if the Rave Green falter and Sporting doesn't there's nothing that Seattle can do to stop them. At least the Sporks have the distraction of the CCL ahead of them.
Projected lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Yedlin; Pappa, Pineda, Alonso, Evans; Dempsey, Martins