The last time we faced Colorado in league play ‐ waaaay back in April — it looked like new head coach Pablo Mastroeni had taken the dynamic, youth-driven team that Dallas-bound Oscar Pareja had bequeathed him and turned into some kind of dour, lurching bunkerbeast. They weren't shooting and they weren't scoring, but a stout defense was at least getting them results.
Now I don't know what to think. The Rapids are second in the league in shots — behind only the Galaxy — though they're just average in actually scoring. But the biggest change has been in their defense. Here are their scorelines in the last five games: 3-4, 2-4, 1-3, 0-1, 0-3. That's a lot of losing, and a defense that gives up at least three goals in 4 out of 5 games is not good. It's bad. It's bad enough that the Rapids' playoff hopes are starting to rapidly (heheh) slip away.
And the fatal blow may have been the loss of one of the best center backs in the league. In the 4th game of that 5 game stretch of crap, Drew Moor went down early in the match with a non-contact injury that we would later find out will end his season. The next game they surrendered four goals to the Galaxy at home.
|Deshorn Brown||Strong and quick, he's now the focus of the Rapids attack.|
|Dillon Powers||Two-way midfielder will likely be focused mainly on defense, but a threat to take late runs or long distance shots|
|Chris Klute||Young left-back once spoken of as the mirror image of DeAndre Yedlin. They may be going head to head in this one.|
The new center-back pairing seems to be the speedy veteran Marvell Wynne and rookie Jared Watts, most of whose minutes this season have come in the midfield. In theory it's a good big/fast pairing as the 6'1" Watts can command the air while Wynne uses his pace to shut down counters. But those actually aren't all that useful against the Sounders. At home against a struggling team I suspect Seattle will have a lot of possession and won't be doing much countering for Wynne to shut down. And the Seattle attack doesn't go through the air, so Watts will be relying on his feet rather than his head.
Instead it'll be about footwork and team defense and I suspect the centerbacks will need to get a lot of help from two defensive midfielders, say Nick LaBrocca and Jose Mari. The Sounders showed what they can do against a soft defensive middle when they put 4 goals on the Timbers in Portland. And San Jose showed what you can do if you cede possession and jam up the defensive middle to cut off Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey's passing lanes.
But back to the Rapids offense, which has warmed up as the season has gone on. And that's in large part the responsibility of one man — Deshorn Brown. The second-year player started the season in a bit of a sophomore slump, but has grown into the focus of the Colorado attack. He has the second most shots in the league with 89, behind only Robbie Keane's 97. And yet he has only 8 goals. . 2 fewer than Obafemi Martins, who's only taken 47 shots. Much of the difference comes from where the shots are taken. The Rapids are one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the league (depending on how you want to count) at taking shots from outside the box. That's a result not only of Brown liking to take quick shots from outside the area, but a lot of shots coming from late runs from midfielders like the two Dillons: Serna and Powers.
This is a game Seattle should have every expectation of winning. The danger is in drawing the wrong conclusions from the Portland match, in which a team with a weak middle committed to getting forward and opening up holes in their defense. Which played right into Seattle's favored strategy of attacking fast up the gut. If the Rapids have any hope of getting a result here, it's in luring the Sounders into trying the same one-twos through a maze of 6 or 7 packed in defenders in the middle. And if that's the case, Seattle needs to find more width than they found against the Earthquakes, meaning DeAndre Yedlin may be the key that unlocks the defense.