2017 has not been kind to the Colorado Rapids. The darling “worst-to-first (2nd in the West when 2016 was over, but you get my point)” story of 2016, the Rapids have seen a rapid decline, and now find themselves at the bottom of the table in 2017, trying to figure out what has happened to the team that looked built for success.
The Earthquakes, however, do not want to be the team the Rapids “get right” against, and look to continue their recent quality form, which has them riding a two-match win streak. The recent win streak has also displayed an offense that has come alive, and has the rest of the league taking note of their newcomers — defender Florian Jungwirth has a goal and two assists in the Quakes last two games) — veterans — Chris Wondolowski is the only guy in MLS with at least 4 goals and 5 assists this far in the season) — and overall quality play — just one loss in their last 6 matches.
What’s behind the Quakes recent success?
For starters, Dominic Kinnear made changes to the lineup. The Earthquakes made three significant offensively minded offseason acquisitions within the way of forward Marco Urena, forward Danny Hoesen, and midfielder Jahmir Hyka. The trouble was figuring out how to get them all on the pitch at the same time with Chris Wondolowski. The “fix” was to insert Hoesen, who had mostly been a sub, into the starting lineup at left wing as a “target winger” according to MLS Soccer’s Armchair analyst Matt Doyle, who also says that the changes to the offense have allowed Jahmir Hyka to turn into a free roaming, creative midfielder, free up Urena to press the center backs on their heels a bit, which ultimately allows Wondolowski to hang back and wait for his moments to poach and or strike. Doyle has called it the “most unusual attack in Major League Soccer.” The Timbers saw that unusual nature first hand, by way of a 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Quakes last Saturday. Kinnear also made changes at both fullback positions, putting Cordell Cato in at the right fullback and Kofi Sarkodi at the left fullback position. It has all added up to consecutive wins, and momentum.
The X factor today:
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is in Commerce City, Colorado, just outside Denver, which means the match will be played at significant altitude, a factor that can slow down any attack. Combine that with a Rapids team desperate for a win, and we are looking at a grinder either way. My prediction is that the Earthquakes will slug it out for a 1-0 win, but a draw is always on the table when visiting the Rapids.