A few months ago the Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids met in the Western Conference Finals. Since then a few things have happened — Seattle won the MLS Cup and both teams are in dire situations in 2017. On July 4 at 6 PM Pacific the Rapids and Sounders both look to reboot a season that is approaching failure.
Tonight’s match is not on national TV. In fact none of the five games are. You’ll need to find Q13. The 6 PM start is great timing to fill the gap between afternoon grilling and nighttime fireworks (use them safely and legally).
Abbie from Burgundy Wave answers Three Questions. We did not exchange projected lineups as my answers were after the final day of practice prior to travel to Colorado.
SaH: Remember the good old days when Seattle and Colorado met in the playoffs? What happened since then?
BW: Since then, the Rapids have, um, regressed. The Front Office didn't make many changes in the offseason besides bringing in Bismark "Nana" Adjei-Boateng, and then at the end of March, traded captain Sam Cronin and starting fullback Marc Burch to Minnesota. In return, we got Mohammed Saied, Josh Gatt, and some money (that will hopefully be put to good use during the summer transfer window). Nana broke his back shortly after earning the starting role, but he recently came back and has made an impact on the midfield for sure. Mo is a regular starter, and Gatt is still in and out. The team has been plagued with injuries this year, and our match on the 4th is the end of a ridiculous schedule, so we're really testing our bench these days. The Rapids are still strong competitors at home, but are 0-7-0 on the road, so we've been struggling to stay off the bottom of the table.
SaH: The Open Cup hammered the Rapids with injuries. How do they make up for that?
BW: It wasn't just the Open Cup - the Rapids have been struggling with injuries all year. Two of the guys who went in that match (Axel Sjoberg and Shkelzen Gashi) have been dealing with injuries this season, so I wonder if they were really ready to come back anyway. The result has been an inconsistent lineup, but I think they're getting it together and figuring it out. It's been tough, and it's really been testing our depth. The Rapids don't have a ton of experience on their bench, but some of the younger guys have really been stepping it up.
SaH: How is Pablo not on the hot seat?
BW: To be completely honest, I don't know. Maybe it's because he just signed a new contract at the end of last season? Maybe it's because they're (mostly) getting the job done at home? Our team president, Tim Hinchey, just left on July 1st for a job down in the Springs with USA Swimming, so many of us are wondering what impact the next president might have when it comes to the coaching staff.
BW: The Rapids have won 5 out of their last 6 home matches, while the Sounders have lost 5 out of their last 6 away matches. Seattle is also missing a couple key players thanks to Gold Cup call-ups. How confident are you feeling about the Sounders coming to Colorado?
SaH: If Colorado wasn't dealing with their injuries it would be one of those games were a 0-0 result could be oddly satisfying. Instead the Sounders need to take advantage of a weakened Rapids team that will below their normally powerful 5280 powered selves. This isn't to say that a Sounders fan should be confident. The offense here is underperforming and the defense is weak, particularly at right centerback and right back, plus Brian Schmetzer basically has 18 healthy bodies. They should be rested and fit. If there is a time to start a second half run it's now.
BW: The Sounders have had a pretty rough schedule themselves - how has this impacted the team and the starting XI?
SaH: This year's schedule has been stupid. Five of the first seven matches were on the road. Finally, the team is back to a more typical home-away pattern, but they fell hard early. The Sounders also try to avoid international dates, which means more midweek games than the standard MLS side. When a team does that while losing a few of their best players to Bruce Arena anyway (because he started camp two weeks early) and a few more to injury it is nearly impossible to stay strong enough to rotate players. It got especially bad in the three straight road losses by three goals (4-1 loss at Chicago, 3-0 loss at KC the follow Wednesday, and two weeks later a 3-0 loss at Columbus). The Sounders would be a rather typical MLS road team without those disasters in May.
BW: Jordan Morris was a big part of last year's success. This year, he doesn't seem to have much of an impact. What's going on with him? (Side note: I know he got called up and won't be there for our game, I'm just curious, and I assume we will see him next time we meet in October.)
SaH: Jordan Morris is hanging out in Nashville with the USMNT. Hopefully they don't break him. I bring this up because after January camp he had a nagging hamstring issue. It was mild enough he could play, but still reduced his speed during the early season. Then, just as he got better he tweaked an ankle with the US at the end of March. It was also mild enough he could play, but reduced his speed. Here's the thing - Jordan Morris best trait is his speed. Without it he's just a typical MLS forward. Now he's healthy again, but not present. Ideally he will come back with full health and the knowledge that he must perform in order to go to Russia in 2018. He can put up ten goals in just half a season. He nearly did that last year. If Morris is doing that Seattle is likely to go on a run.