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Scouting Report: Reaching for cruising altitude

The Sounders are desperately searching for ways to elevate their standing. The Rapids present a perfect chance to finally take off.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

What You’ll Watch

Two of the worst teams in the Western Conference will face off tonight when the Seattle Sounders travel to Commerce City to take on the Colorado Rapids. This is the first of two meetings this season and the only one to be played in Colorado.

The Rapids currently sit in 10th place in the West with a record of 4-9-3 (15 points in 16 games played; 0.94 ppg) and the Sounders sit directly below them in 11th place with a record of 3-9-3 (12 points in 15 games played; 0.80 ppg). The Rapids are coming off a 1-0 win on the road against the Whitecaps, while the Sounders lost a goal fest 3-2 against the *shudder* Timbers.

This will be the 23rd all-time meeting meeting between the two clubs. Seattle holds a 15-5-2 record with 40 goals scored and 24 conceded. On the road, Seattle is 6-3-1 with 18 goals scored and 15 conceded.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: L-L-D-W-W with seven goals scored and eight conceded

Leading Goal Scorer: Dominique Badji, six goals (six at home)

Assist Leader: Johan Blomberg, Jack Price and Tommy Smith, three each

Injury Report, Suspensions and International Duty

Colorado

Out: N/A

Questionable: Marlon Hairston (undisclosed injury)

Suspensions: N/A

International Duty: N/A

Seattle

Out: Jordan Morris (torn ACL) and Handwalla Bwana (right midfoot sprain)

Questionable: Kelvin Leerdam (right hamstring strain), Felix Chenkam (right hamstring strain), Stefan Frei (concussion) and Calle Brown (concussion)

Suspensions: N/A

International Duty: Gustav Svensson (Sweden), Roman Torres (Panama)

Match Officials

REFEREE: Fotis Bazakos

AR1: Peter Manikowski

AR2: Cory Richardson

4th: Robert Sibiga

VAR: Alex Chilowicz

What to Watch

Colorado’s System

The Rapids’ transformation from a rugby union side to a soccer team has been a bit of a rough one. Unlike the Sounders, however, expectations were low for a team coming off a 33-point season and hiring a new manager. They probably weren’t low enough, unfortunately; thusfar, there’s been next to no improvement in the results. In fact, they’re only just barely removed from an eight-game losing streak. Stefan Aigner, the supposed complement meant to free up Shkëlzen Gashi, didn’t even last a year before the sides mutually agreed to part ways. Gashi — the team’s only non-Tim Howard DP — has been relegated to substituting. Whatever Anthony Hudson is doing, it certainly doesn’t seem to be building anything at all.

There have been changes, at least! The defense hasn’t been nearly as stout, that’s for sure (though, to be fair, that starting going backwards last year). It also hasn’t been as organized, which was really the only thing the team had going for it under Mastroeni. The 3-5-2 Hudson set the team into has enabled them to be more aggressive further up the field, but he seems to have decided that a zone setup is the best option. That’s left them exposed to easy overloads and slow reactions to help out teammates, and probably has a solid relationship to why they’re leading the league by almost 25% in total yellow cards (a whopping 49 through 16 games). With as much switching and movement as the Sounders typically have, even in their current state, this is a promising state of affairs.

The attack hasn’t looked better than previously, either. The transition game trends similarly to Seattle’s, in that they don’t really seem to have a firm idea what to do, nor are they on the same page most of the time. Not surprising, then, that they possess the ball a league-worst 43.3% and are third-worst in pass completion at 75.5%; more often than not they pass themselves into highly restricted space along the sideline, then blindly knock a ball out of it and hope something good happens.

Much of the offense is driven through the wings via Marlon Hairston and Edgar Castillo. Despite signing Yannick Boli to a TAM deal this off-season, Badji has stamped his name on the no. 9 position. His speed and size allow them to lump balls over the top to him if the opposition’s defensive line gets too high. It’s tough to tell if this is intentional or not — the connection between the midfield and forwards is so non-existent that what the system is actually meant to be is nigh impossible to tell.

This is not a strong defensive, transitional, or offensive opponent, even at home. As we’ve seen throughout this season, however, that hasn’t necessarily meant guaranteed success.

Quick Keys

  • Speed it up - Almost everything the Sounders do is slow, and that lets teams — particularly teams predicated heavily on defense, like Colorado — to completely reset before Seattle is able to develop much. Victor Rodriguez’s goal this past weekend was a great example of what can happen when movement and passing continue at a high pace. With the Rapids’ propensity for confusion this isn’t just a thing the Sounders need to improve, it’s their key to success.
  • Keep it together - Whaaat?! Mostly, this is pointed at Osvaldo Alonso, who doesn’t seem to have a single connection to any other player on the field. Or it could be pointed at Waylon Francis, who’s been a trainwreck defensively (but somehow still is given starts over Nouhou).

How to Watch

Date/Time: Wednesday, July 4 @ 6:00 PM

Location: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — Commerce City, CO

TV: JOEtv

Streaming: YouTube TV

Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360AM (Spanish)