1) So far this season the Rapids have done very well offensively, beating two very good offensive teams in the Red Bulls and Timbers in most offensive categories. How do you see this style translating into the match against Sporting KC?
Colorado has the talent and the tactic that makes it so that they can create gobs of chances against just about anyone, so I expect to see the same thing against Sporting. Colorado's game tends to work very wide, using the speed and passing ability of guys like Deshorn Brown and Dillon Serna along with Dillon Powers and the fullbacks to create 1v1 opportunities in the final third. The team's finishing is still a bit shaky, which is why they haven't converted more of those many, many opportunities, but you can probably expect the same ol', same ol' build up for the Rapids regardless of the team they're playing.
But though the build-up might be the same, the way they try and finish those chances by getting into isolated scenarios might be different. With the strength of Kansas City in central defense, specifically through the air, I expect you'll probably see earlier long passes to guys like Serna and diagonal balls on the ground rather than the gobs of crosses they tried against the Timbers.
2) With Jose Mari suspended for this match who will replace him in the midfield and how will that change the Rapid's offensive approach?
It would be a colossal upset if Nathan Sturgis doesn't immediately step in for Jose Mari in that deep midfield position. Assuming that Sturgis doesn't have some sort of off-season hangover still going, there won't be a drop off at the spot, and the gameplan will probably remain exactly the same for the Rapids. Jose Mari took over the spot that Sturgis made his own last year (the more 'destroyer' role has been given to Nick Labrocca) but struggled a bit during the first two games, while Sturgis was a passing machine and a rock in the center of the field all last season. It's about as seamless a transition between players as you could ask for on an MLS roster.
Another possibility, though a bit unlikely, would be rookie Jared Watts stepping into the spot that Mari left open. He would add a bit more physical punch to the game than Sturgis would, and could be an intriguing option if Pablo Mastroeni feels that the physical Sporks need to be counter-acted.
3) How has Pablo Mastroeni changed the Rapids in comparison to Pareja's team last year? Are they a better team than last year?
There haven't been any huge changes, but that was to be expected. The Rapids went into the post-Pareja coaching search knowing that they wanted to keep the overall philosophy and style of Pareja's teams. That is, they've had essentially the same formation (4-2-3-1) and tactical idea (possess the ball deep, create tons of chances with speed and movement up top) that we saw last year as the Rapids steamed their way to a playoff spot. Pablo's Rapids team has seemed a bit more forward thinking and a bit more willing to press than Pareja's teams did last year. It's a welcome change that we saw especially in the first game against New York, considering Pareja's unfortunate tendency to sit back and wreck his own tactic sometimes when on the road next year.
As of right now, you can probably expect the same flavor you saw last year, with a bit more of a tang to it as the Rapids press a bit higher. We'll know what Pabloball is going to become as the season and Pablo's coaching career start to get a bit deeper in.