The 6-17-6 -23 Colorado Rapids don’t seem like much of a threat. With just a lone win on the road this year, it is little surprise that they are massive underdogs in Saturday’s 1 PM match (JOEtv/YouTubeTV) match. But the Seattle Sounders are in circumstances where they need every single point. Home games in the second season are still possible and only a handful of teams are assured of better records for the season. If Brian Schmetzer’s men continue their second half play they have an outside chance of hosting an MLS Cup at home.
The Rapids give up 1.9 goals per game and score only 1.1 goals per game. In their last six matches they’ve gotten worse. Now eliminated they play for pride and jobs in 2019.
Abbie Mood from Burgundy Wave answers Three Questions.
SaH: What are the Rapids playing for at this point?
BW: In my opinion, they should be trying to save face and just get a few more points to finish out the season. Now would be a great time to play some of the younger guys, bring back players that have been out on loan, and let some of the veterans rest (there’s one guy who hasn’t had a break in two years). At this point, there’s no risk in giving players minutes and seeing who might be worth keeping next year.
SaH: What young player needs to show that they deserved more time all year?
BW: I’ve always been a fan of getting Caleb Calvert more playing time because I think he could be a decent striker if he was developed. He’s been with the ‘Pids since 2015 and they just keep sending him to Charlotte. Meanwhile, we’re sitting here in Colorado with one other decent striker option (Niki Jackson). Jackson is also a player that I believe Hudson underestimated. He needed more playing time earlier in the season to get experience not just playing, but with keeping his emotions in check. Now the team is depending on him and his emotions got in the way during the RSL match when he got a red card early in.
SaH: Will Hudson be back in 2019?
BW: I’m pretty sure that he will be. The Rapids are still paying Pablo Mastroeni’s salary through 2019 and the FO knows how bad it would look to have put so much energy talking Hudson up in the preseason and then fire him after one year. If things go south again next year, I think he’s out.
Projected Lineup: Tim Howard, Deklan Wynne, Kortne Ford,Tommy Smith, Marlon Hairston, Jack Price, Johan Blomberg, Kellyn Acosta, Dillon Serna, Niki Jackson, Giles Barnes
BW: For the past couple of years, the Sounders have started out poorly and then turned it around in the summer. How have they done that this year?
SaH: Sometimes simple answers are the best. It’s health. In the early season Nicolas Lodeiro, Osvaldo Alonso, Victor Rodriguez, Harry Shipp and Jordan Morris were all hurt. Now, Morris and maybe one other is hurt for a specific match. The offense works a lot better without multiple rookies and HGPs on the field in the attack. Then they added Raul Ruidiaz and Brad Smith. The Sounders offense went from pathetic to mid-table. That’s good enough when the defense is this good.
BW: What is the Sounders biggest area of weakness and biggest strength this season?
SaH: Weakness is rather easy. The offense can fail, dramatically. It can go months while looking horrible. That’s changed a bit once Raul Ruidiaz and Brad Smith joined the team. It’s still not completely fixed, just look at the last two games. Advanced metrics and traditional ones agree -- Seattle’s attack is mediocre over the season.
The biggest strength is the defensive pentagon. It starts with Stefan Frei at the base with Chad Marshall and whoever as the other centerback (in order of likelihood those are Kim Kee-hee, Roman Torres, Gustav Svensson) and then the two defensive midfielders (Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan and Svensson in some order). Those five starters and the depth in those roles are great MLS players and all have represented their nation at some point (Marshall not often enough). The collapse and force shots from poor angles and distance. Most MLS teams cannot beat them.
BW: Has the retirement of Clint Dempsey had any impact on the team or fan morale?
SaH: It’s odd, but since he was already gone for several weeks, his being officially gone is just reality. After that first match with the celebration of his career the Dempsey era is over. There’s no emotional weight, whether positive or negative. He was a soft leader in practice, who got along well with the majority of teammates, particularly the youth. But on game day his leadership was more about being a hard ass towards the other team. That bite still exists with Alonso, Roldan and Torres.
Projected Lineup: Stefan Frei; Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson; Victor Rodriguez, Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan; Raul Ruidiaz