Match Preview: Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Monday, September 21, 2020

San Jose Earthquakes are ripe for the picking as they prepare to walk into DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday night to take on a hungry Colorado Rapids, writes Richard Fleming.

Since returning to play following the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando, the Quakes have gone 0-4-3. They managed seven goals in those seven games but have given up a whopping 23.

Despite being the more dominant, the Rapids needed a late equalizer from the now-departed Kei Kamara for a 1-1 draw at Earthquakes Stadium on September 5, after which the Quakes were battered 7-1 at Seattle Sounders.

Last weekend, while the Rapids were dictating the terms in a comfortable 2-0 win at LA Galaxy, the Quakes were suffering a 6-1 mauling at home to the Portland Timbers.

With Matias Almeyda’s man-marking system, it is feast or famine. They held Seattle to a 0-0 scoreline in Orlando, were goalless with LA Galaxy in their September 13th meeting, and tied the Timbers 1-1 three days later.

They have, though, leaked five goals to both Minnesota and LAFC, as well as the seven in Seattle and six at home to Portland, which came just three days after they held the same team to one.

The Quakes sit bottom of the Western Conference, with the worst goal difference (-16) and most goals against (33) in all of MLS. And yet they lie just four points adrift of the playoff places.

Teams to have dominated the Quakes have clearly figured out a way to exploit their man-marking system, though despite some sound beatings, Almeyda has stubbornly stuck to his methods. But, as shown by results this season, when it goes wrong for the Quakes, it does so quite spectacularly.

The Rapids return home after three road games, from which they scooped six points, and recaptured the Rocky Mountain Cup. They also kept their first two clean sheets of 2020 in the two respective victories.

Of their 12 games, the Rapids have played only four at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, with just one win for their troubles. Three of their four victories have come on the road, albeit from more away games. But for them to continue the climb back up the Western Conference standings, the wins must start to flow at DSGP.

That ought to start against a San Jose side without a league win since July 19, when they defeated Chicago Fire 2-0 inside the Orlando bubble.

Doubts remain over the fitness of three key players for the Rapids. Diego Rubio (knee) missed the win at the Galaxy after hobbling off in Dallas having collided with a post. Robin Fraser then watched on Saturday as first Danny Wilson and then Younes Namli departed early, with what appeared calf and hamstring issues respectively.

In his absence, Andre Shinyashiki comfortably filled in for Rubio at LA Galaxy, while Braian Galvan - Namli's replacement - grabbed his first MLS assist in being the provider for Jonathan Lewis’s goal. Auston Trusty, meanwhile, stepped on for Wilson and helped keep the likes of Chicharito and Cristian Pavon at bay.

If anything, depth will be tested. With so many games in such a short space of time, team rotation is something we have seen already, and we can expect that to continue as the season unfolds. And so healthy bodies, and lots of them, will be a must heading toward the backend of 2020.

The Rapids are unbeaten in the previous eight home games against San Jose (4-0-4). That run includes wins in the last four in Commerce City. Historically, games are tight between these two teams. In the last 18 matchups, of those eight which have not been ties, just two were decided by more than one goal.

But, as shown with the recent rampant display at Rio Tinto - when it was the Rapids running riot - records are there to be broken, and history is a thing of the past.

Coverage of the Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes is on Altitude and AltitudeNOW on Wednesday from 6.30pm.