Match Preview: Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids
It has been a horrendously tough month for the Colorado Rapids, but they will look to put all of that behind them this Saturday when they – once again – resume their season, writes Richard Fleming.
Their game at Sporting Kansas City will come 31 days after their previous encounter, a 5-0 demolition of San Jose Earthquakes at home on September 23, for a third shutout win in four games. Tails were up, and hopes were high.
And then came the first of 18 positive Covid-19 tests over a three-week period, affecting 13 staff and five players. The virus swept through the DICK’S Sporting Goods Park facility, and forced the Rapids to postpone matches against *Sporting KC (home), Portland Timbers (away), LAFC, (home), LA Galaxy (home), Seattle Sounders (away), Real Salt Lake (home), and *Sporting KC (home).
That final game, at home to SKC, was the rearranged date for the initial match postponed on September 27. Of those six opponents, only the trip to Portland has found space in the schedule, which means the Rapids are likely to play five less games than the expected 23. Their recent inactivity leaves them sitting 11th in the standings, three places and two points below the playoff positions.
The Rapids’ run-in is tough, with four of their five remaining games on the road, and three of the five opponents currently occupying first, second, and third in the Western Conference.
With a little over two weeks before the end of the regular season, there have been media reports of the league opting for points-per-game to determine playoff positions, which would catapult the Rapids from 11th to fourth, but for now it is as you were with placings settled the old-fashioned way.
There is something of a mixed blessing for the Rapids having not played in more than four weeks. They will be fresh as daisies, compared to their rivals, but may lack the sharpness which comes with playing every three or four days.
This weekend will mark a third meeting between these two MLS originals. The Rapids finished with nine men and lost 3-2 when they squared-off inside the Orlando bubble. Cole Bassett and Gianluca Busio scored for either side in a 1-1 draw at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park at the end of August.
SKC has played five times since the Rapids’ previous outing, winning the first three. They have since collected one point from the last two, denied victory in Chicago last weekend by a stoppage-time equalizer from Djordje Mihailovic. The 2-2 tie prevented SKC from taking over first place in the Western Conference. They sit third ahead of the weekend’s games.
The Rapids are expected to be at full strength, which means both Diego Rubio and Younes Namli are free of injury. If they feature, Jack Price will make his 70th appearance and Danny Wilson his 50th. The Rapids will be without midfielder Kellyn Acosta. He will finally serve his one-game ban for yellow card accumulation.
Sporting should welcome back Mexico striker Alan Pulido, who has missed the last four games due to international duty. They are, though, without veteran defender Graham Zusi. His season is finished after undergoing surgery for a sprain in his left foot.
Rested they may be but Robin Fraser's side does not have the luxury of easing into games on their return from this enforced break. The sprint to the finish line starts now.
* We have coverage on Altitude and AltitudeNOW from 6pm this Saturday.