Match Preview: Colorado Rapids vs Sporting KC
There are 10 games to go for the Colorado Rapids, and we will not have to wait too much longer before playoff whispers become animated chatter, writes Richard Fleming.
The first of those 10 games takes place on Sunday night at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, against Sporting Kansas City. Coverage on Altitude and AltitudeNOW begins at 6.30pm.
Such has been the Rapids’ form in recent weeks that a win in Commerce City against a temperamental SKC would guarantee a spot inside the top four by close of business on Sunday, and could even lift them to the top of the Western Conference, depending on results elsewhere.
They will be minus one of their key components in midfield, as Kellyn Acosta will miss his first game of 2020. The 25-year-old serves a one-game ban for yellow card accumulation. On the other side, Sporting KC should welcome the return of Gianluca Busio. He was a spectator for SKC’s 2-1 home loss to Orlando on Wednesday as he himself served a suspension for accumulation.
Busio bagged the equalizer for Sporting KC the last time these teams tussled. The game at DSGP finished 1-1 back on August 29, as SKC finished with 10 men. In the six games since, the Rapids have gone 3-1-2. Those three wins have occurred in the last four games, during which Robin Fraser’s side has knocked in 13 goals.
Energy, aggression, youthful exuberance, and also an element of freedom has allowed this Rapids side to express themselves in games, and impose themselves on opponents.
But on Sunday they come up against a side which, though hitting a rough patch, sits third in the Western Conference, two places and one point above the Rapids.
And, while the Rapids have shutout teams in their three recent wins (at Real Salt Lake, LA Galaxy, and home to San Jose Earthquakes), this Sunday’s visitors are the only side in MLS to have scored in every game this season.
Fraser was able to pull a few players early on Wednesday in the 5-0 win over the Quakes, as goals piled up and the result seemed assured. Younes Namli may be the only short-term concern for the Rapids. The Designated Player has been nursing a hamstring injury, sustained in last weekend’s win at the Galaxy.
Diego Rubio (knee) was left out of the 20-man squad for the San Jose encounter, but the former SKC striker could find himself in contention this weekend. His injury came from a collision with a post in Dallas on September 16.
In Rubio’s absence, the Rapids have not skipped a beat. Andre Shinyashiki has slid into the role up top with ease, occupying a position he was so successful in during his college days at the University of Denver.
There have also been more minutes for Jonathan Lewis, and he is grabbing the opportunity with gusto. Not only did he score at the Galaxy, but he had a goal disallowed, and watched a scorcher of a shot ricochet back off the frame. He followed up that performance with a fine goal against San Jose.
Newcomer Steven Beitashour made the bench on Wednesday. The assumption is he will be back-up for Sam Vines, who has played every minute of 2020. Vines has found himself deep in enemy territory more and more in recent outings, for which he has been rewarded with his first MLS goal and first MLS assists.
While Vines has quietly gone about his business, fellow-homegrown, Cole Bassett, has been creating quite the stir around MLS. The 19-year-old made MLS Team of the Week with a goal in each of the last two games. His last four starts have produced three goals and two assists.
Goals win games, but not only have the Rapids been scoring more, they have also been conceding less - far less. In the first six games of the season, up until the 4-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake, the Rapids gave up 13 goals. In the seven games since, including a 4-1 loss at FC Dallas, they have conceded just seven.
Things are working well at both ends of the field, and long may that continue.