One week left. Two games. A potential for 6 important points that could see them climb up to the 2nd seed. But Sporting KC have to take care of business against the last place Rapids, a team they have struggled against in the past. I sat down with John Rosch from our fellow SB Nation Blog, Burgundy Wave to discuss Wednesday's match up.
We ask them...
1) The Blue Testament: The Rapids have locked up last place in the West even with an extra match left to play. How are the Rapids viewing this final week of the season? Will we see them trying new things and perhaps give some reserves more time on the field?
John Rosch: The Rapids are looking at this as a chance to play spoiler as the take on both Sporting Kansas City and Portland Timbers. The season has certainly been a massive disappointment but they are taking a professional approach to the final two matches, but you will probably see a mix of younger players and veterans on Wednesday in Kansas City.
2) TBT: Despite the poor results, especially at home, and despite a fan boycott this season, I understand the Rapids have the highest average home attendance they've had in almost 10 years. Is there any specific reason why that is the case or is it just a result of the league and the sport growing everywhere?
JR: Much of the credit for the increased attendance numbers has to go to the Front Office. They have taken a fair amount of grief over the last two years, but they have done very well in getting more people into the seats. I do also think that the increased interest in soccer throughout the United States is helping. When you have players like David Villa, Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba and Robbie Keane coming to play on your pitch--and all of those players are internationally known--it really helps the bottom line on "butts in the seats."
I also think that the Rapids are benefitting from the 2014 Men's World Cup. Fans remember efforts from some of those players and want to come out and have a chance to see those players take the pitch.
And finally, the Rapids have been fortunate that some of the bad weather that plagued Dick's Sporting Goods Park by and large bypassed Denver. There was not a major snow storm or cold period (like in 2013 and 2014) and for the fans in Denver this has really been beneficial. Casual soccer fans want nice warm weather to watch a match, and that has been in abundance along the Front Range.
3) TBT: What are you looking for this team to do in the off season to right the ship? What is the ceiling for them next year?
JR: I wrote about this on Monday and I really think the Rapids are close, but there are several things that have to happen for the Rapids to climb back from irrelevance:
1) New Coaching Staff: The Rapids are lead by Pablo Mastroeni and he has been nothing short of a disaster. Pablo is 16-32-18 over the last two seasons and has led a team that was young, exciting and dynamic in 2013 to the laughing stock of Major League Soccer. The Front Office appears to be all-in on Pablo and seem ready to have another go with him at the helm in 2016. This is fine, but he needs help in a major way. He appears to have zero tactical acumen when it comes to offense and does not know how to properly make substitutions with games on the line. Mastroeni should be fired, but if you are going to keep him, he will need big time help to have any shot at being successful.
2) The RapKids: In 2013 the club had great young players that started or played major portions of the season. And 2013 was the most points and wins in a season that the Rapids have ever had. But since then they have traded or sold such players as Chris Klute, Shane O'Neill and Deshorn Brown and have mishandled young cornerstones Dillon Serna and Dillon Powers. Much of this falls on Mastroeni as he wanted his own players and those three did not fit that mold. For the Rapids to have a chance, they have to again rely on good, young, talented players--not over the hill veterans.
All that being said, the Rapids really have the look of a team that will be in tenth in 2016. They gutted so much of their team from 2014 to 2015 that there is just not much left. Yes, there is some exciting and talented pieces, but with a coaching staff that has no idea what they are doing, it is difficult to see them being competitive.
Burgundy Wave Lineup and Score Predictions:
Clint Irwin, Maynor Figueroa, Sean St. Ledger, Axel Sjoberg, Drew Moor, Lucas Pittinari, Sam Cronin, Dillon Serna, Dillon Powers, Gabriel Torres, Kevin Doyle
Sporting 3-0 Colorado
They ask us...
1) Burgundy Wave: So the playoffs. SKC is not actually going miss are they?
Cody Bradley: It is technically possible, but highly unlikely. On the other end of the spectrum, they can finish with the 2 seed. They are a point ahead of San Jose with a game in hand. However, the game on the weekend is going to be a tough one. If Sporting KC mess around and settle for a draw Wednesday then they may be forced to get a result out of the Galaxy match to even make the playoffs. However even if they only muster a point out of the two games AND San Jose beats FC Dallas (trying to win the Shield), if Seattle loses to RSL then the Sounders are out. All that matters is if they win both games then they jump up to 2nd place. This league is crazy!
But Vermes is getting his guys back and healthy and they'll be at home in The Blue Hell to wrap up the season. They're in a good spot and I think that 2 Seed is theirs for the taking!
2) BW: Speaking of the playoffs, I am trying to figure Sporting out. At times they look like they are the best team in MLS, but other times they lose to teams like the Rapids. What is going on?
CB: This club went through a stretch that was very frustrating. It was a perfect storm of a number of different problems, but the biggest factor was Sporting had just lost Roger Espinoza and Soni Mustivar from the midfield at the same time. They are both unsung heroes most of the time but everyone truly recognized their importance on the field when they were gone. That is what I'll blame the loss on last time around. And don't think I will forget that on the 2nd goal the ref missed no less than three calls including a blatant handball. :)
But really though, we know this team can beat anyone when they are clicking. And now long term injury guys like Ike Opara and Espinoza are coming back. If Vermes can get close to his preferred lineup this team can make a run at the Cup.
3) BW: Sporting is 9-1-5 this year at Sporting Park. Is there any hope that the Rapids can pull off a shock upset and take the Midwestia Championship?
CB: The Midwestia Championship... HA I forgot about that!
One problem it seems like this team has dealt with the past couple seasons is playing to the level of their opponent. They can throw out a reserve squad and hang around against the best teams and even pull out results, but then the preferred 11 can struggle to put games away against weaker opponents. So yes of course there is always a chance!
But it does looks like Ellis, Mustivar and Besler will be back in action. At full strength (as close as they ever get at least) and at home, these guys are going to be ready to take care of business.
The Blue Testament Predicted Lineup and Score:
(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Chance Myers, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Soni Mustivar, Paulo Nagamura, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi
Sporting Kansas City 3 - 0 Colorado Rapids