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Sporting Kansas City at Colorado Rapids: Three Questions with Burgundy Wave

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Sporting Kansas City travels to Colorado for midweek MLS action against the Rapids on Wednesday night. I got with John Patrick Rosch from our sister blog, Burgundy Wave, to discuss the second meeting of the season between these Western Conference foes.

Sporting KC will need the 2015 Benny Feilhaber to show up on Wednesday night.
Sporting KC will need the 2015 Benny Feilhaber to show up on Wednesday night.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Winless in six matches, Sporting KC now heads to Colorado to face the team that started them on this slide, the Rapids. SKC fell by a final of 2-1 to Colorado a month ago at Children's Mercey Park, and they haven't been able to pick up all three points since.

I got with John Patrick Rosch from the Colorado Rapids SB Nation blog, Burgundy Wave, to discuss the matchup. We've got a long one for you this week as he got me ranting about the slump. But I'm really going for it this week, you guys! Sporting KC is just simply better than the recent record would show. They are angry now. I like them to come out and show their quality against a team they have struggled against.

So here are your Three Questions But Really Six.

We ask them...

1) Top of the table, two points clear of the Galaxy, unbeaten at home, and four wins in the last five. What is happening right now in Colorado?

Johnny Rosch: Can they keep this up?  Kind of funny, isn't it?  When we looked at the season we were being optimistic in calling two wins in their first 10 matches as the Rapids had a brutal scheduled to start the season.  But something happened along the way: they forged a true identity and made the right personnel moves.  They got rid of a lot of dead weight and made some pretty unpopular trades but along the way figured out who they were as a team and how they wanted to play.  The Rapids are extremely difficult to break down, they have learned to play attacking football and fear no one in this league.
Can they keep it up?  I think so.  Supporters are still cautiously optimistic, but skeptical.  We have seen good starts fizzle into 18 game winless runs, so there is a healthy amount of concern.  But I do think this team is for real and has a great chance of making the playoffs and making noise when they get there.

2) Jermaine Jones has 3 goals and 2 assists in 4 games this season... an absolutely insane turnaround from last season in New England. What has been the key to his success?

JR: Jermaine is happy in Colorado.  He loves playing on natural grass and has the freedom to be a leader and be both an attacking force and a defensive menace.  He gives Colorado an identity that they lacked and seeing #13 coming down the field causes teams to pause.  Because it's not just the goal scoring.  His distribution to Shkelzen Gashi, Kevin Doyle, Luis Solignac and Dominique Badji have been terrific.  Jones, as funny as it sounds, is the #10 that the team was missing.

3) Has the great start to the season been enough to turn around the angry fan base that boycott last season? Is Pablo a genius all of a sudden?

Pablo is not a genius, but he is learning.  He still struggles with some of the tactical nuances, like substitutions, but he is getting better.  It appears that all credit should go to the Front Office for sticking with him.  I think the fanbase is slowly warming to him and the success he is having this season.  But there is this slight fear he goes back to being the Pablo of old.  But so far this season, so good.

P.S. What is the latest with Tim Howard? When will he join the team? How long till he is on an MLS field again?

Tim is currently finishing up with Everton and then will head directly to the USMNT as they prep for Copa America Centenario.  Depending on how they do will determine when Tim joins the club.  But his first start is scheduled for July 4 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Burgundy Wave Predictions:

Lineup:
Zac MacMath, Marc Burch, Axel Sjoberg, Bobby Burling, Mekeil Williams, Sam Cronin, Micheal Azira, Shkelzen Gashi, Jermaine Jones, Dominique Badji, Kevin Doyle.

Score:
Colorado Rapids 2:0 Sporting Kansas City

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They ask us...

1)  What in the world is going on at Children's Mercy Park?  SKC went from top of the table to sixth.

There are several issues of course, most of which are little things. But numbers would indicate it is an issue of finishing, or quality in the final third. Sporting KC has been dominating teams. Truly dominating. But they have been unable to get a win in the last six, and only one in the last eight. They control games and possession, they get their shots off, but they have not scored more than two goals in a game this season, and they've only done that twice! (Although to be fair, they haven't conceded more than two goals yet either.)
It feels to me there is one last lethal touch or pass that's been missing, and that has been Benny Feilhaber. Honestly, he has looked lost at times. He's not been the same player and SKC really needs him to turn it around. Also as much as it pains me to say it, Graham Zusi has not been playing well to the point I believe he's hurt them at times. The guy has had moments where he shows flashes of the old Zusi, but then he will send in a cross or a corner kick that makes you cover your eyes and turn your head.
I am still holding strong in that I believe the team has the quality to do well this season. Like I said, they've been controlling most games. Moreover, the games with dropped points have come against the top five teams on the Supporter's Shield table.
Against LA it was just one quick counter attack and an amazing chip that led to two missed points. Against Houston they didn't deserve to win at all, but the two goals conceded were soft and probably should have been dealt with by Tim Melia. It's just been a couple things each match. They preach parity in this league and it is oh so true. Small margins of error lead to dropped points and a few dropped points can have you tumbling down the table.
You opened a can of worms with that one, so I apologize for the rant. But like I said, I think Sporting will be just fine. They've shown they can hang with, and even dominate the best. They just need to clean things up and find a way to be more clinical when the chances come.

2)  The Rapids have won three in a row against Sporting.  How has that happened?

Good question! First of all - I will openly admit I'm still salty about this - but last year the referee missed a straight football tackle/hockey check and one of the most cynical handballs I've ever seen, all in one play that led immediately to the game winner for the Rapids. If you recall, that was the game Vermes lost it in the post game interview. However I do believe that Sporting was guilty of looking passed Colorado last year. Despite a bad call or someone being lucky/unlucky, SKC put themselves in positions for things like that to happen and to drop points.
The Rapids are definitely better this year, and they are even better now than when these teams met in April. But I will say, Sporting KC was definitely the better team in April and should have won that game. Both of the goals for the Rapids were ridiculous, embarrassing, give-aways from KC. Also how did that ball come off the crossbar SO ABSOLUTELY perfectly for Gashi? But I digress.
Hopefully Sporting KC realizes that Colorado has had their number lately and they all play angry. I think we see the first smudge on the Rapids home record this season.

3)  Peter Vermes seems to be the safest of coaches in the league.  But is he getting any grief for this slide?

Yes, he is very safe. And no, he isn't getting grief... from me at least. For the people who don't see behind the scenes and ignore his incredible ability at finding talent, the knock on him has always been his lack of flexibility. That he is too set in his ways and in stead of adapting to each game, that he sticks with his system.
If that is what he was doing in the midst of this slide, then he probably would be getting much more grief. But PV has actually switched up his beloved 4-3-3 a few times. He has put all three of his CBs in at the same time, he's played Dom Dwyer and Diego Rubio at the same time, hell he played Zusi at some wild form of a right-back against LA (that actually worked and Zusi was on TOTW... as a defender). Now just because you asked, I will give him a little bit of grief. After switching things up and looking so good, he went back to the 4-3-3 for Houston. It was a very ugly match and at this point, everyone involved at all deserves some of the blame. Everybody needs to be better.
The team is in a slump and fans are not happy, so naturally there is finger pointing going on. But I don't think PV is getting anymore blame than should be expected from angry, irrational fans. His team has been in every game. His team controls matches. His team limits chances for opponents. What is he to do when his team's 17 shots only count for one goal? He's a great motivator and I believe he will get all the quality on this team going in the right direction soon.

The Blue Testament Predictions:

Lineup:
(4-3-3) Alec Kann, Amadou Dia, Nuno Coelho, Matt Besler, Chance Myers, Soni Mustivar, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber, Brad Davis, Dom Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda

Score:
Sporting KC 4 - 2 Colorado Rapids