Colorado is first in the league. I'll let that digest for a second. Yes, the Rapids lead the Supporter's Shield 24 points from 12 games. The crazier thing, no one really knows how they do it. Style? None. Attacking fair? None. Massive star players? Just Jermaine Jones. Top-notch HGPs? Nada. Pablo Mastroeni's mustache? Missing. A lot of questions with no satisfying answers.
Most of the offseason fans and outsiders thought the Rapids had no plans or direction and were making laughable moves, but they're laughing now. The club has no style of play that would be definable, they're just there. Colorado doesn't have a penchant for counter attacks, great possession skills, or strong bunkering. It's not like they are an amoeba and just adapt to what best harms another team's style. The club is gritty and in a traditional American style just grind out results. They don't do one thing well, just a lot of things average and it is working.
Jermaine Jones has only made this team better being asked to play a number 10 role in this offense in front of Cronin and Azira and it is surprisingly working. He isn't too traditional in that he isn't a great passer or wonderful playmaker but he can make the late run to get his head on the ball in the box and finish from 20 yards out. He's not afraid of making a tackle allowing both a high press and for the CDMs to sit in and bully. He's embraced his new role in the Mile High city and it is working out for Mastroeni.
Shkelzen Gashi spend the beginning of the year sharing minutes with Marco Pappa out wide but has since started grabbing more regular minutes. He's got two goals and three assists in 825 minutes meaning he averages a point every two matches, fortunately he got an assist last week in the 1-1 draw with Columbus. He's not a perfect crosser but he's a fast winger with some strength (not Flaco-esque). He knows when to cut back, when to drive into the box, and how to be a late runner. He may not be a perfect crosser but he can create enough space that even a serviceable cross to an above-average striker (Kevin Doyle) is plenty dangerous. Deploying out left, his speed created problems for Mears, who was more concerned with offense in the last meeting, meaning that Ozzie and the CBs have to cover if Mears gets caught. There'll be tactical fouls and a yellow but it'll be worth it.
Last time we saw the Rapids, it was in Colorado as we hoped to beat a team that really was out performing itself, that didn't happen. Sounders were caught tired and flat-footed going into the half down 1-0. They woke up but gave up another, six minutes into the second half. For the next 35 minutes, the game was all Seattle's and it was pretty clear the club could equalize after Jordan Morrs' 63rd minute goal. Then Kevin Doyle scored an offside goal and put it out of reach.
That match was in Colorado, a road game with elevation, and the road is not where Seattle does best. A home match with a need for results should be a good matchup. If Seattle can avoid bad ref calls, a red from taking down Gashi on an exposed flank, and can thwart Jermaine Jones' impact with late runs, the defense will get a shutout. The only question then is, which offense shows up? The offense can dominate a backline lead by Bobby Burling, they just have to communicate enough to do so.
No suspensions for either side and Seattle should have everyone available except for Chad Marshall and Nelson Haedo Valdez, that means Zach Scott could start alongside Brad Evans. Colorado is missing Eric Miller, their utility-knife defender, Sean St. Ledger (another CB), and Marco Pappa who disappointingly will not be back to play in front of his former home crowd in his only regular season opportunity this year.
Colorado: MacMath, Williams, Burling, Sjoberg, Burch, Azira, Cronin, Solignac, Jones, Gashi, Doyle.
Sounders: Frei, Mears, Evans, Scott, J. Jones, Friberg, Alonso, Roldan, Morris, Dempsey, Ivanschitz