Scouting report on the first place Colorado Rapids ahead of their home game against Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting Kansas City won’t have much time to lick their wounds after a very disappointing loss against Houston on Saturday. Sporting KC next take on the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. These two teams met just four weeks ago, and since then these two teams have headed in two absolutely different directions.
Since their meeting on April 13th the Colorado Rapids have been on a four game unbeaten streak, with three wins and one tie. A complete polar opposite, SKC have now gone five games without a win. It’s safe to say SKC could really use a win, but do they even have a chance against a red-hot Rapids team?
Jones The Attacking Midfielder?
The biggest thing that’s happened since these teams last met is that Jermaine Jones has been able to play after his long suspension, and man has he made a statement in his first four games as a Rapid. In just four games Jermaine Jones has tallied three goals and two assists.
When he was originally acquired many questioned where the U.S. international would fit in, and I don’t think anybody would’ve expected him to play the #10 role. The Rapids have thrived with Jones playing this role, averaging now a whole goal per game more than when he was suspended. Many questioned this acquisition by Pablo Mastroeni, but it might just go down as one of his best.
Jones isn’t the only player that’s began playing for the Rapids. Kevin Doyle, Colorado’s Irish Designated Player, has returned to the line up after suffering a nasty gash on his calf during international duty at the end of March. The Irishman hasn’t really found his scoring touch yet this season, but with wingers in great form like Luis Solignac and Shkelzen Gashi he hasn’t really had to (Solignac with three goals and Gashi with two). The front four of Doyle, Gashi, Solignac, and Jones are all the same page going forward, and it’s leading to some great soccer being played and a lot of trouble for opposing teams defense.
The last piece to this attack is MLS veteran Sam Cronin. Cronin does a great job of being an option for the defense once they win the ball. Cronin then spreads the ball with his passing allowing the attacking four to work their magic. This is all with out the services of Marco Pappa who is out with a MCL injury, and Dillon Powers who hasn’t seen much of the field since the emergence of Jones.
When at home, the Rapids have been very good defensively. Colorado has only conceded twice during their five home matches, and all of their three clean sheets have come at home this season. The goals that they have conceded have usually come from their defense not stepping out quickly to pressure the ball, allowing the opposing team to have a second look for a shot or a cross.
The one thing that Axel Sjöberg, their big tall Sweden, has done well this season has refrained from getting in physical battles like the one that Dwyer might try to initiate. Sjöberg rather will sit off just enough to not have to battle the forward, but tight enough that if the forward tries to turn with the ball that he can put pressure on. Also, Colorado’s outside backs love to get into the attack, which usually requires Micheal Azira to usually stay more defensively to avoid the counter.
For me there has been two things missing that could lead this SKC team to knocking off the first place Rapids. The first is their has to be a fire in this team. One thing that Sporting KC teams in the past have had is a bite and some grit, and I just haven’t seen it from this team lately.
The second is looking to play on the counter. SKC teams have never played a pretty brand of soccer. They’ve always won with high pressure, forcing teams into turnovers, and converting quickly after forcing those turnovers. I really hope that Peter Vermes stays true to his word and lights a fire under this team. If not my fear is we’ll be looking back at this stretch of games in November as the reason we don’t make the playoffs.