We can all face facts, first these two teams don’t like each other much, their fans don’t like each other, and well Colorado is a desperate team. They have no wins so far this year, they haven’t held the Rocky Mountain Cup in 6 seasons, and well they are the Rapids. The fact that these two teams are meeting for the second time in the first 5 weeks of the season seems a bit nuts to me as I would think they would spread rivalry matches over the course of the season, and maybe feature them on holidays or other big weekends. We know how big this series is to each team, and the series is as even as they come with each side having 9 wins, and their being 8 ties between the two sides. RSL has scored 27 goals and the Rapids 24 goals, the Rapids do hold and edge when the match is played in Colorado, they have 6 wins to RSL’s 2 with 4 draws. The Rapids have won just 2 matches against RSL in the last 4 seasons, but RSL haven’t won at Dick’s since 2007, if RSL want to keep the Rocky Mountain Cup, they most likely will need to figure out a way to get a win in Colorado this year. So let’s take a look at the match:
Javier Morales – for RSL there is no denying the fact that a healthy Javier Morales makes them a better team, when he is 100 percent he is one of the best creative players in MLS. He marked his first minutes of 2013 coming on for the final 28 minutes against Seattle last week, he got a huge standing ovation from the crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium from the fans who appreciate what he means to the team. While I have no doubt that he will see action against Colorado, could this be the time he gets his first goal against them? I think expecting anything special from him while he is working his way back to full fitness is unrealistic but with Javi you just never know.
Devon Sandoval – last week at the start of the match many fans were wondering who this floppy haired rookie was and why he was in the lineup, this week fans are hoping for more Sandoval. While he didn’t score against the Sounders, you could see that he was able to create space for others, while creating chaos for the Sounders defense. An intense work rate, good size, and a skill level that many didn’t expect to see so early from the second round draft pick. With Robbie Findley out and Joao Plata nursing a bad hamstring we could see Devon get his second start of the season alongside a returning Alvaro Saborio. With the Rapids defense having issues (they have given up 7 goals in their first 4 matches) it could open some chances for Devon to get his first goal of his MLS career.
Kyle Beckerman – has never lost the Rocky Mountain Cup, the first two years he won it with the Rapids, but since joining RSL he has lifted the trophy six more times. This week the Rapids called Kyle “creepy” in a satirical video that ended with a kid punching a picture of the multi time MLS All Star and USMNT player. I almost feel for the Rapids, how it must feel having traded away one of the best players in league history for Medhi Ballouchy, it is easy to understand their wrath. Kyle has never scored a goal against his former club, but you might think that he is extra motivated for this go around of the Rocky Mountain Cup.
Edson Buddle – if you want a player in MLS that has caused RSL fits you need to look no further than Edson, he has played in 14 matches against RSL, 922 minutes on the pitch against RSL in which he has taken 43 shots and scored 10 goals. Now before you start wringing your hands, many of those goals came a long time ago, since returning to MLS last year he has just 3 goals in 20 matches played. He is also returning from injury and has 61 minutes of action so far this year, so while he has been a RSL killer in the past, I think this is a very different Edson Buddle. That doesn’t mean that the RSL back line can take him lightly as he is just 7 goals shy of the 100 goal mark in MLS action, and you never take a player with that type of ability lightly.
Deshorn Brown – while RSL fans have been impressed with our rookie forward Devon Sandoval, the Rapids fans have Brown, big, fast, and talented to pin their hopes on. He is the player who scored in the first match between these two sides and he may have been taken too lightly by our makeshift back line in that match, but I don’t expect that to happen again. Still that single goal has pushed him into the top 5 current Rapids performers against RSL, that should tell you how tight this rivalry has been and how much change has happened on the Rapids roster. Keep your eyes on this young man, despite being a Rapids player, he has some skills.
Nick LaBrocca – once a Rapid and now a Rapid again, I will admit I was confused when the Rapids traded Nick back in 2010 but they were desperate to get some defensive players. Still he is back in whatever colors the Rapids pick for their kits, and to me he is a player worth keeping your eye on. He is very good on the ball and while he doesn’t often light up the score board he did score 8 goals and add 6 assists with Chivas USA in 2011, before the meltdown there started. He is a player who will clog up passing lanes in the midfield, find some openings when he has the ball and could with so many new and young players on the pitch for the Rapids provide some motivation and leadership.
RSL’s banged up roster vs. Colorado’s brutally beaten up roster – You expect that when teams meet that there will be injuries but to have so many players missing so early in the season for both sides just makes me wish this match was later in the season. For RSL we have Robbie Findley out, Joao Plata banged up, Chris Wingert banged up, Javier Morales regaining fitness and with each of those guys being a big part of what RSL can put out on the pitch, it will clearly impact our roster and tactics. Still we are much better off than the Rapids, who will be missing Matt Pickens, Jaime Castrillon, Diego Calderon, Pablo Mastroeni, Drew Moor (not injury but suspension), Kevin Harbottle. For a Rapids roster that was in a second year of rebuilding to be missing that many pieces is tough, and forces them to rely on younger and more unproven players. It is a shame when this big of a match is missing so many players on both sides, but I have to give an edge to RSL who seem to have more vital pieces available for Saturday than do the Rapids.
Can RSL get off to another fast start – the Sounders were caught off guard early in the match last weekend, as RSL came out of the gates flying and with constant pressure on the ball that resulted in 5 shots in the first 10 minutes and one of those found the back of the net. The pressure kept coming as RSL would take 16 shots in the first half (9 more in the second half) and by half time RSL was up 2-0. We know that the RMC matches often have late dramatics, heck the first leg of the series this year saw a late tying goal (80th minute) by Alvaro Saborio. The Rapids have given up 5 of their 7 goals in the second half of their matches, including 2 in the final 15 minutes, and RSL have scored 2 of their 5 goals in the last 15 minutes of matches so far this year, but remember scoring first has always been a key in MLS. So striking early could be a key for RSL to pick up a rare win in Colorado.
These matches are brutal to pick, emotions are always high, fans and players are always amped up an extra notch or two for RMC matches. Still the Rapids have some serious issues and while many of them have roots in their injuries, this is still a team trying to rebuild itself with a 2nd year coach, lots of changes, and so far this year it just hasn’t paid off. Their inability to hold a 2 goal lead in Portland last week has to really have some of their players wondering what they have to do in order to get a win. For RSL things are starting to mesh, the first 45 minutes last weekend were awe inspiring, and the 90 minute effort was their best of the season in my opinion. People always talk about the style RSL plays with, well that attacking, open passing style was on display for 20,000 fans last weekend and now RSL gets to play on the big stage of national TV, a chance to show everyone what they are capable of.
I expect a fast start from RSL, no trying to weather the first 15 minutes on the road, but rather trying to get an early goal and set the tempo of the match. I think the Rapids are out matched at every position, so I expect they will do what comes natural in that situation, they will get defensive, they will get physical. I have a feeling that this match could break down quickly unless the official Chris Penso (34 matches, FC/gm: 22.9; Y/gm: 2.9; R: 8; pens: 12) is able to keep his head on a swivel. I have a feeling RSL can and will take advantage of the weakened Rapids roster, I look for a 2-0 RSL win.
That’s How I See It