Next up for the Union is Colorado (7 p.m., purchase tickets), a team that hasn’t hit a hot streak, but has battled enough to make life difficult for the opposition in addition to sitting comfortably with a winning record (7-5-5, 26 points) over the first half of the season.
Now, they bring their show to PPL Park in hopes of pulling points from back-to-back Eastern Conference opponents. Colorado’s last time out, a 1-1 draw against Columbus on Independence Day was a battle to the end that found a Vincente Sanchez header proving the difference. Sanchez is a handful with six goals in seven MLS matches played this season. Fortunately for the Union, the Rapids will be without Sanchez after a suspension appeal from an infraction against the Crew was rescinded late Friday.
However, Sanchez wouldn't have been the only player to keep an eye on in terms of attack, in fact what would you say if we told you that perhaps the Rapids most dangerous man was arguably a defender?
We’ll get into that but right now; let’s break down the major players in this Scouting Report.
Colorado Rapids offense
Head coach Pablo Mastroeni – that’s right former MLS and U.S. men’s national team stalwart Pablo Mastroeni – has taken the reins this season under a 4-4-2 system that features striker Deshorn Brown as the one of the premier target men up top. It's unknown if he made the trip, but with Sanchez out, wouldn't be surprised if Edson Buddle gets the nod alongside Brown. Though looking at film of this Rapids club, you’ll find that much of their attack comes from flank play, similar to how Union interim boss Jim Curtin uses both defenders in Ray Gaddis and Fabinho. However, Sanchez and Brown are able to get in behind defenses with ease. Brown, the former Reading United product due to his deft speed and Sanchez who has a knack for being a poacher and getting into the mix at the appropriate time; these two are handful but sit in front of a pair of wingers in Kamani Hill (left) and Dillon Powers (right) that support on attack. Jared Watts and longtime Rapids man Nick LaBrocca hold down central midfield but you’ll see that much of what sparks the Rapids attack is played down its flanks and into the mix of the oppositions 18-yard-box.
Graphic: Look at Colorado's possible lineup and formation ahead of Saturday's match at PPL Park (7 p.m., 6abc)
Colorado Rapids defense
The Union has been really good at confusing its opposition over the past few matches with deviating from a one-dimensional approach to its game and instead focusing on using the creativity of Cristian Maidana to generate plays both in the middle and outside of the park in addition to continuing to push outside backs higher into the attack. This strategy is favorable against a Rapids back line that does give up a ton of chances and can get caught on the counter. Marvell Wynne is the danger man in this one as he gets up and down the right side of the pitch with ease. Wynne could be found all over the place in the Columbus match, but has the sense of mind to track back and be an intimidating defender. Right back Chris Klute does push up on occasion, although it’s possible Mastroeni could insert Marc Burch into that spot. Burch has appeared in nine matches for the Rapids this season. Drew Moor and Shane O’Neill will hold down central defense.
The “X-Factor” of this defense however has to be the steady play of goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Irwin, a recent candidate for MLS Save of the Week enters this one with a 1.15 goals against average is second in the League in clean sheets with six.
It’s tough to say what this Rapids team will bring. The group admittedly was not pleased over the draw against Columbus but it was difficult to decipher if it was because the club though it had a bad game in front of its home crowd, or if the belief was that it played better than the win. Watching that game and its game before against Vancouver, the one thing of note is that this Rapids team isn’t the best on defending set pieces, a trait that we’re sure Curtin and Co. picked up as well on game film.
What do you make of this Rapids team? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org