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Sporting Kansas City vs Colorado Rapids: Three Questions with the Burgundy Wave

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I spoke with John Rosch of the Burgundy Wave ahead of Sporting KC's match with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Sporting Park. The Rapids enter the match struggling in last place after another defeat on Wednesday against Orlando City. Sporting KC look for redemption after a tough RSL match, and to assert their dominance in front of The Blue Hell.

Zusi gets one more match with KC before leaving us for the Gold Cup.
Zusi gets one more match with KC before leaving us for the Gold Cup.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

We ask them...

1. The loss against Orlando City midweek keeps the Rapids in last place in the Western Conference. Pablo Mastroeni got rid of his mustache recently, might the team have to get rid of him soon?

That is the big question right now--how long Pablo stays as Head Coach.  The record speaks for itself:  since July 25, 2014 the Rapids are 2-17-11.  It was easy to blame last year on injuries to key players, but this year there really is no such excuse.  The Front Office has brought in firepower that was supposedly to help the offense, but it appears that Mastroeni has no idea what do with it.  The Rapids are averaging .75 goals per game and he only yesterday (against Orlando City) changed the formation.  The results were the same for the Rapids and it is getting darn right painful to watch.

I do still believe that Pablo will make it through this year, but I do not know how much after that.  There has been plenty of talk that the team wants to let him grow into is role as coach, and take its lumps, but for many supporters this is getting ridiculous.  If the team were showing growth and progress and still losing, then optimism would be higher.  But the truth is this team is regressing right now and there is talent on this team to be better than their record is.

As for the 'stache' I am happy it is gone.  Playing bad is one thing, but having your coached mocked for looking like Captain Morgan or Colonel Sanders is too much.

2. Is there any hope among Rapids fans that things can turn around this season and sneak into the playoffs? What are Colorado fans hanging their hat on right now? The future of Dillon Serna perhaps?

Most rational supporters know this is a lost season.  Too many dropped points in games that were winnable makes it a road too far.  For Rapids supporters they can hang their hats on a few things (sadly, a sack Pablo watch is one of them).  There are good young players such as Serna, Clint Irwin, Dillon Powers, Axel Sjoberg, Joseph Greenspan, Marlon Hairston, and Shane O'Neill that have impressed and are critical to the future of this team.  Many supporters want to see those players play rather than older veterans who have seemed to lose interest.

I also think supporters are hoping for a magical cup run in the US Open Cup.  The draw could be worse as the Rapids travel to Houston in the fifth round and then a possible date back at Sporting Park if both SKC and the Rapids advance.

3. Will Colorado do anything differently as they come into The Blue Hell Saturday? What will they have to do in order to get the first win in KC since 2002?

To win at Sporting Park the Rapids have to do one thing: score the first goal.  Right now it feels the big problems are psychological more than anything else as the Rapids seem to be predisposed to not score or score when the game is nearly over.  The Rapids are 2-0-2 when they score first this year and 0-5-7 otherwise.  This is a team that is lacking confidence and an early score would help them immensely as they try and get that elusive win in KC.

Predicted Lineup: Clint Irwin, Michael Harrington, Drew Moor, Shane O'Neill, Marlon Hairston, Marcelo Sarvas, Sam Cronin, Dillon Serna, Dillon Powers, Charles Eloundou, Kevin Doyle

Predicted Score: Sporting 3:0 Rapids

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They ask us...

1.  Sporting Kansas City was on a 7 game unbeaten run that was snapped last Sunday at RSL and overall Sporting has lost just three matches.  What is going right for SKC and what areas need improvement.

This run of success came at a very unlikely time. SKC had been ravaged by injuries and just had to bench the starting keeper. One thing I think is going right that must be mentioned, is the culture that Peter Vermes has created on the team. They players, including the rookies, know he has confidence in them. They all know that if they trust the system, 'stay focused for every roll of the ball' (that is something you hear a lot from them), and do their job, this team can beat anyone. Another thing, and this might be the biggest one, has been the surprise of Tim Melia in goal. As an MLS pool keeper last year he has been absolutely lights out. His first start was the 2nd of that 7 game run and it was clear from the start he wasn't looking back. Kevin Ellis has also been a surprise as he pretends to be a CB filling in for the loss of Ike Opara. The guy has actually become something of an aerial threat and got himself on the TOTW.

However, I think that is also an answer to where the team can improve. Matt Besler needs another big, natural CB to pair with. Ellis has done some parts of the job well, but not being a real CB, his positioning comes into question and he gets exposed. Vermes has stated they are looking for another defender. Something else Sporting fans would like to see improved is finishing. That really just lies with Dom Dwyer. There are several points that have been left on the table because of missed chances. Nobody wants to turn that around more than Dom himself, so I do still believe that time is coming. Moreover, CEO Robb Heineman tweeted about having fingers crossed because he "just hit send on an attacking offer". It is probably just a depth move, as bringing somebody in to replace Nemeth, Dwyer, or Zusi would have to be a major signing.

2)  We had a contributor from Burgundy Wave attend a Sporting match a couple of weeks ago (vs Seattle) and he commented on the fantastic atmosphere that exists at Sporting Park.  Obviously the terrific stadium has helped to build that atmosphere, but what else makes it such a special place to watch a match?

It is a combination of many things. The ownership can be given a lot of credit. Yes it is indeed the stadium, but it was the ownership group that worked directly with The Cauldron in asking what they wanted in the stadium (and then actually listened). Sporting Club always, always makes a point to involve the fans wherever they can. They know what their target market wants and they have built an incredible brand. Of course, the fact that they starting winning immediately after re-branding and moving into the stadium is perhaps the largest factor. And they have won with big personality players, hometown heroes, and national team heroes. KC is just flat out a sports town, and although its laughable around the world, SKC has some soccer history that other teams don't. Wizards chants are common place. We can reflect on the days of playing in massive Arrowhead or the minor league ball park for a time, and enjoy the world class environment we have now. All of that has created that great atmosphere.. and that is what keeps everyone coming back.

3)  The Gold Cup is coming up and surprisingly Sporting is going to lose only two players, Graham Zusi and Marcel de Jong.  How surprising was it to see Matt Besler left off the roster and how will Sporting deal with July and missing two players?

Sporting fans were preparing to lose Zusi, Besler, De Jong, Mustivar, Espinoza, and maybe even Feilhaber the way he has played. So July is actually looking pretty good at this point. It feels like this team has not had a full strength lineup one time in the last 2 years, so this shouldn't feel any different. That being said, if we didn't have Besler, we would only have one actual CB on the team. And he is only 18. So you won't hear much of a complaint from KC.

It is pretty surprising that Besler was left off, especially when you look at some of the other defenders on that list. I like John Brooks, but he has looked bad more than he has looked good thus far. There is a bit of a theory however. Perhaps Jurgen is confident and just testing some of the other guys, and then Besler will be called up for the knockout rounds when the competition gets more difficult.

Predicted Formation:

(4-3-3) Tim Melia, Chance Myers, Kevin Ellis, Matt Besler, Amadou Dia, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Krisztian Nemeth, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi

Predicted Score:

Sporting KC 3 - 1 Colorado Rapids