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Three questions with Burgundy Wave

We stop by former SBN colleagues at Burgundy Wave to see what's going on with Colorado ahead of Saturday's match.

Last Updated
6 min read

Saturday’s 12:30 pm PDT match against the Colorado Rapids is another chance to assess the Sounders versus a Western Conference team. Where Seattle went with an off-season refresh, the Rapids went for a rebuild. New coach Chris Armas brought in two USMNT players with multi-million dollar transfers, plus a handful of other talents in order to play his form of pressing soccer and dig the Rapids out of the deep lake they sunk themselves into over the past two seasons.

Answering three questions for Burgundy Wave is Matt Pollard.

SaH: The Rapids probably brought in more talent that MLS fans have heard of than any team, including Inter Messi. Which of these additions will help them win the most games?

BW: Rapids fans could not believe it when they saw the moves being made and money being spent this winter. On paper, the two biggest additions are Djordje Mihailović and Zack Steffen. Steffen’s here to stabilize the goalkeeper position. They’ve been below average in expected saves since the last two years of Tim Howard. Steffen’s made at least one big stop in the first three games. Combined with his ability to play out of the back, he’s a massive upgrade in goal. Having a backline stable and healthy will make the adjustment time easier as well.

Mihailović however has had a mixed start in Colorado. He runs a lot. Pressing has been okay, not great. Every time he’s gotten the ball with time and space, he’s done well. But he goes missing for long stretches. He’s at a new club with a new coach. He just got engaged and his fiancé is expecting. Change is hard. Saturday’s a big opportunity for him to step up. Dutch clubs don’t buy a player then sell him a year later at a reported 50% loss. The fact that AZ were willing to eat a loss gives me cause to pause that what he did in 2021 with Montreal was more about Wilfred Nancy than him.

SaH: Is Chris Armas able to implement that ol’ Red Bull style with Colorado?

BW: To be clear, Armas’ plan is Red Bulls adjacent, not straight Energy Drink Soccer. He’s said in interviews that his views on the game have evolved. Colorado aspires to be a team that is good with the ball and capable of building out of the back. Pressing and playing with intensity are still Plan A. But they want to be more nuanced than RBNY or St. Louis.

It’s his first year at the club. They have a lot of new players. And for him to be able to fully implement the system, they need to be at midseason fitness. He’s concerned about overloading them with information. So it’s a work-in-progress. It has looked better and more detailed every game. Can they take another step forward this weekend? Will it be enough to get a result at the Clink? We’ll see. I’ve got Seattle winning 2-1.

SaH: How did Portland break down the defense so thoroughly in that first half of the season?

BW: That first half in Portland made every Rapids fan think about the season opener last year at Seattle. The intensity was not there. They were slow to second balls and to pressuring the man on the ball. On the back end, Portland disrupted their shape. They were shifted over to one side on all four goals. The midfielder assignments were all off. Smallish mistakes compounded into goals.

The Timbers had their way on their right side, just like the Sounders did a year ago. RSL was at their best attacking their right, Colorado’s left last week. Are opposing scouts seeing something with Mihailović and Sam Vines defensively? Colorado has a big test this weekend if it’s the Roldan brothers on the right. With Connor Ronan out, it'll be a younger double pivot of Oli Larraz and Jasper Löffelsend or a debut for Lamine Diack. Good thing it won't be Brad Evans and the amoeba midfield tomorrow.


BW: The biggest offseason change for the Sounders was Nico Lodeiro moving to Orlando City. Pedro de la Vega missed the Philadelphia “game” with a hamstring injury. How has Seattle looked without Nico so far this year?

SaH: The early struggles of the Sounders have shown me just how little the play of Nico meant to success and failure last year. They are just as ineffective in creating scoring opportunities this year as they were with him last year. Consistently they create a limited form of danger that indicates they should be scoring more than they do. But just like with Lodeiro in 2023 there’s not enough conversion. That’s mostly on the forwards/wingers. They’re doing a good job of pulling defenses away, which is probably why Josh Atencio was the highest non-penalty xG+xA on the team so far (also two more of the top six are the other starting DM and a starting CB).

The lack of punch in the attack is probably best emphasized by the non-Morris/non-Ruidiaz attackers. Both of them have a single decent match. Jordan in matchday 1 drew the penalty and had the best opportunity of the match. In game 2 it was Raúl who was the best threat. Léo Chú and Danny Musovski were supposed to be supplemental attacking threats. Danny struggles to assert himself into matches and Chú remains on the island of potential when the Sounders need a continent of production.

BW: Colorado’s going to be inexperienced in midfield this weekend with Connor Ronan out with a knee injury. What’s the midfield going to look like given the injuries? What are you looking at for them to do well?

SaH: Bad news for the Rapids – Albert Rusnàk is healthy again. He might not start but he’ll be available as a 10. Y’all know what he’s good at probably better than Seattle does since we saw him as an 8 for a year and a half. Behind him will be two young defensive mids that are on the edges of various U.S. youth teams. Josh Atencio is surging forth as the best player on the team so far this year (it’s a young year) and though not called up for the recent U-23/Olympic camp that may be because that camp is while the Sounders are playing games. With the health of the squad they cannot do without their best-to-this-point player. Obed Vargas helped the Sounders win the CCL back in 2022. Injury and poor form have limited his chances for calls lately. Obed is strong in lateral possession and seems to be in the spaces where the Sounders want him – always.

Expect Atencio to surge from deep spaces, controlling the turf to accept his ability to threaten goal with an emerging vision that seeks to threaten goal. Additionally look for one of the Roldans to overload the center during long possession. Seattle is willing to crowd the top of the area during prolonged possession. They must use that to create danger. Defensively they're as stout as ever. Going up the middle is foolhardy. 

BW: So that “game” against the Union. How much do you think that match being suspended will affect this Saturday (rest vs. rust)? 

SaH: There’s a hope that the Sounders are just rusty and a bit injured. At most they’ve started seven of their Best XI in a match so far. Standing in heavy rain with nothing to show for it has to be a bit demoralizing. Re-centering after the postponement should focus on the return home and the ability to play in mid-60s and sun in front of the local crowd. Hopefully it’s easier to push the postponement aside than it is a loss.

BW: I feel like the Sounders always do well in afternoon home games, but maybe that’s anecdotal. Care to give us a prediction? Are the Rapids cannon fodder for Fox to broadcast Rave Green’s first win of the year? 

SaH: I wish I felt that way about Sounders home games. They’ve been a pretty average home team over the previous three seasons.

Here’s Alex Roldan after practice Thursday: “We need to get back to people wanting to watch us play at home. It’s a big piece to this very long year. It’s a high-pressure moment where we need to win.”

The good news for Seattle is that Colorado seems willing to give up at least a goal.

Read Burgundy Wave and listen to Holding the High Line for my Colorado Rapids previews and reviews.