With the Seattle Sounders traveling to the great heights of Commerce City on Wednesday, we wanted to get the lowdown about the Colorado Rapids from Matt Pollard, Editor at Burgundy Wave. Matt and Co. also recently went independent as a site, so be sure to check out our answers over there!
Sounder at Heart: Things around the Colorado Rapids don't seem very good, to say the least. The team is bottom of the table, a likeable coach has been fired, and the supporters group is walking out during matches. Can you briefly tell SAH what's going on?
Burgundy Wave: Jack Price tore his Achilles back in March. Diego Rubio's had five different injuries that have limited him to 13 appearances, all comps. Kévin Cabral hasn't worked out as a DP forward. The players still here from 2021 have regressed over the last two years. Robin Fraser's man management and tactical nous could only go so far. The three summer signings are a net positive, but they're likely too little, too late to save this eason. Furthermore, they're not the gamechangers everyone else in the league is signing. The Rapids are Loan With An Option To Buy FC, while even RSL is dropping millions on players like Chicho Arango.
Everything's boiled over for the fanbase. They're tired of KSE (Kroenke Sports & Entertainment) making the Rapids the poverty franchise of MLS while being absent. They're tired of the Front Office making the same excuses for their circumstances and on behalf of ownership. A few fans tell me they think it's gaslighting when the FO says they can compete in MLS in 2023 with their current approach. The fans care. They're invested. They're not convinced KSE is. They don't think the FO is being held accountable. Fraser deserved better. They want a financially competitive first team. They want stadium upgrades. They want to stop falling further behind in MLS.
SAH: On the flip side, the Rapids picked up their first win in seven matches against a good New England Revolution team (who also have some issues) on Saturday. Can you tell me how that win happened? Did you learn anything about the team because of that win?
BW: Interim manager Chris Little (former Sounders Academy and Tacoma Defiance coach) brought a new positive energy and simplified the game plan. Pressing out of a 4-3-3 worked well to limit the Revs chances, other than set pieces. Cabral was energetic for the first time in months. Moïse Bombito looked great returning to centerback in a back four. Marko Ilić had his best performance of the year in goal. Two great individual efforts on the goals from Cole Bassett and Calvin Harris were just what the doctor ordered. Saturday was cathartic for so many on the pitch and in the stands (or rather, in the parking lot after the walkout).
That being said, the Revs had a chaotic week themselves. Bruce Arena resigned, the players refused to train one day, and then there's the whole Richie Williams situation. There's a part of me that wonders if Saturday's win was a false positive given the emotional state of the opponent. We'll get a much better understanding of the Rapids new coach bump this week with Seattle midweek and at Portland over the weekend.
SAH: The Sounders don't typically play well when they travel to Colorado, with just one win there since 2018, even when the Rapids aren't playing well. What are the expectations Rapids fans have for this match? Who are some key players Seattle should be looking out for?
BW: Another home win would be great, but the Rapids’ playoff hopes are slim. Fans want to see fights and something to build on for next year. Can the new signings put in a good performance? Does the team look less fragile? One of Little's phrases with the media has been, "be hard to beat." Do we see one of the kids get more minutes? A Danny Leyva winner against his former club? A 1-1 draw with a great performance, a goal from a player who needs it, and a win in Portland would be a fantastic three games.
I'll highlight the three summer signings as players to look out for. Andrew Gutman has completely stabilized the left back position. He's made no mistakes defensively and is a livewire going forward. That matchup with Alex Roldan should be fun. Sidnei Tavares has been good on the ball in midfield, but hasn't produced yet in the final third. I wouldn't expect him to boss the midfield, but can he have a few key plays in critical moments? Lastly, Rafael Navarro. His hold up play has been good. He's done a lot with little service and at times no help. He did a knee slide on Bassett's goal last game. Imagine the celebration if he opens his Rapids account in stoppage time to beat the Sounders.