Tonight Sporting Kansas City will start their playoff journey when they play the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. It's the first match in a two leg series, with the second match being played this coming Wednesday at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park.
To get ourselves ready for tonight's game (FOX Soccer 6:30PM CDT), I took some time to ask Chris White of the Colorado Rapids SB Nation blog Burgundy Wave a few questions about Colorado, and what type of formation and tactics the club uses, as well as about the loss of midfielder Jamie Smith, who tore his ACL in the Rapids 1-0 win over Columbus.
As always, a big thank you to Chris for answering my questions.
The Daily Wiz- Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith tore his ACL in Colorado's 1-0 win over Columbus earlier this week. How will the loss of Smith impact the Rapids as they continue their playoff push?
Chris White- It's going to be an immense loss to Colorado. On a team that's built mostly around the role players and defensive mettle, Jamie is one of the few purely offensive mins that you'll find on the team. Some of the best goals on the season were either set up by or scored by Jamie. He's also the best set-piece server on the team, but Gary Smith has confusingly started to use Sanna Nyassi in his stead in that regard lately even when Jamie was healthy, so I guess that it's not quite as big of a problem that we're losing our service-master. Either way, it's just another tick in the wall of first team starters that are out for the season, along with Conor Casey, and Anthony Wallace. Since Colorado's problem this year was a complete lack of depth, the most certainly can't be a good thing. Look to see Wells Thompson on the wings in his stead.
The Daily Wiz- If you had to name three Colorado players that are critical to the team's success, which three players would you name, and why?
Chris White- Drew Moor, Pablo Mastroeni, and Omar Cummings.
Moor is the best player on the Rapids, and it's not even a close race. he single-handedly kept the Columbus Crew away from the goal last match despite an absolute barrage of crosses into the area unleashed in his general direction during a frantic few minutes. The one match that he missed this season, the Rapids looked confused, and listless, albeit against the current Supporters Shield holders (LA). As he goes, the Rapids go; in confidence, defensive mettle, and all sorts of other things.
Pablo might not be healthy for the match, but for the Rapids' sake, he'd better be. There's a reason he's the captain and that reason is that he's the most steady and consistent player on the field, except for maybe Moor. The replacements we have for him in the midfield aren't exactly shining stars either. Has anyone heard of Joseph Nane, and Ross LaBauex around the league? The Rapids managed the Crew game without him, but KC have far too much offense to overlook the hole in the central midfield that Pablo could potentially leave.
Omar Cummings has had a terrible season. After being an MVP candidate last season, he seems to have taken the fame to his head, and started to bring about quality on the pitch that he just doesn't have. He's tried shots from way too far out, attempted passes that even Messi wouldn't dare, and tried cheeky backheels instead of wide open shots half the time. And worst of all, he hasn't scored. Four goals in a season is not nearly enough for a so-called star player. Fortunately, he seemd to find himself against the Crew as he finally netted another goal for himself inside the 18 yard box where the goals should be coming from. He's shown before that he can net them in bunches if he's hot, so we're hoping that he is indeed going to get hot. If not, I don't know where the Rapids offense will come from.
The Daily Wiz- For the readers who maybe aren't as familiar with the Rapids: give us a rundown on Colorado's usual lineup, and tactics.
Chris White- The Rapids play a very conservative straight ahead 4-4-2 formation. The defense has a good mixture of size, speed, and grit with Miguel Comminges, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, and Kosuke Kimura helping keep balls away from our fairly frightening (to us) goalkeeper, Matt Pickens.
Comminges and Kimura play as wing-backs with Kimura especially coming up almost as far as a striker at times to provide confusion on the side and more options for crosses. With both Smith and Mastroeni out, it's possibe that you'll find them with an offensive midfielder in the center, but normally they go with two box to box defensive guys in the center, Pablo along with Jeff Larentowicz being the old standard.
Look for Wells Thompson, Larentowicz, Ross LaBauex, and Brian Mullen to play the matches if Mastroeni misses them. Ross is a fairly young and more raw version of Pablo with more offensive than defensive flair to him, so it should still be an interesting one to see next to the all-defensive Larentoewicz. Don't let Jeff's 7 goals this season fool you; they ALL came from booming shots on free kicks.
Up top, the Rapids either like to do the classic target forward + speed option with Caleb Folan, and Omar Cummings, or try and simply burn past the defense with Sanna Nyassi up top. Considering how ineffective Folan has shown himself lately, I expect to see the speed line up top with a mix of Omar, Sanna, and perhaps Macoumba Kandji