The New York Red Bulls are 1-0. The Colorado Rapids are 1-0. Both with one-goal victories. RBNY won in Atlanta, 2-1, in Week 1 of MLS 2017; the Rapids beat New England Revolution, 1-0, at home. In Week 2, the Red Bulls are at home and the Rapids are on the road.
As RBNY fans, we mainly keep track of the Eastern Conference. Here’s the thing: Colorado is good. The Rapids tallied one more point than RBNY last season. They gave up a league-low 32 goals in 34 matches - the only team to stay under 1 GA/game. But they didn’t do themselves any favors by only scoring 39 goals (tied for second fewest), and that modest scoring record caught up with them in the playoffs.
As for this Saturday’s game, Abbie Mood from Burgundy Wave is here to tell us about RBNY’s Rocky Mountain foe.
Once a Metro: The Rapids didn't make too many big signings this season outside of Alan Gordon. How has the team changed and adapted since losing names like Marco Pappa, Jermaine Jones and Sebastien Le Toux?
Burgundy Wave: While each of those players contributed something on and off the field, I don't really see any of those losses as very significant. Marco Pappa is a good player, but just didn't fit into the playing style, so he didn't see much field time. Sebastien Le Toux is also a solid player, but I don't think it worked out as well as everyone had hoped, and he was only there for about half the season since he joined the team in August. And then there's Jermaine Jones. Some might argue that this was a big loss, but he only played a handful of games anyway. Most of the Rapids’ success had nothing to do with him.
So there hasn't been much of a need to really adapt to those losses. The big focus is scoring goals, something that the Rapids have not been known to do (they came in second from the bottom in goals scored last year). Alan Gordon may have an effect on that as a super sub, and Dillon Serna is back as another super sub (he tore his ACL last season against Dallas), but there haven't been any big signings to boost the offense. Instead, the team is focusing on pushing up high, getting players into the box, and getting good service into the box (which we did see them do last week).
OaM: Colorado has a pretty stingy defense, posting 13 clean sheets last year and already starting off this season with another. Who are some of the players RBNY will need to be mindful of? What makes them such a strong group?
BW: One of the best things about the Rapids is that there isn't *one* person to keep an eye on as far as the defense goes. I mean, there's obviously the 6'7"Axel Sjöberg holding it all down, but the other center back (Jared Watts) and our left and right sides (Marc Burch and Eric Miller) make for a solid back line all around - there isn't a weak spot. We also have Sam Cronin and Micheal Azira holding it down in the midfield, and those two work extremely well together. Our entire defense is the exact same as it was last year.
OaM: Can we expect to see Tim Howard and Goal of the Year winner Shkëlzen Gashi this weekend? What are the team's expectations this season?
BW: Pablo said it was very likely that Gashi will be available, so we will probably see him. I have a feeling he will sub, and not start, but he'll likely get some playing time. Tim Howard has been practicing and played a simulated game on Sunday, so there was supposed to be a discussion about whether or not he'll play. It sounds like things are going well, and knowing Howard's competitive nature, I have a feeling he'll start.
Expected injuries/omissions: none, unless Howard doesn't play.
Predicted Starting XI: Tim Howard; Marc Burch, Axel Sjöberg, Jared Watts, Eric Miller; Micheal Azira, Sam Cronin; Dominique Badji, Dillon Powers, Marlon Hairston; Kevin Doyle
Predicted score: This is going to be a tough game for the Rapids, and the more aggressive offense has left the defense open a bit at times. I'm hoping for a 1-1 tie, but I think 2-1 Red Bulls is a real possibility.
The game will be nationally televised at 4pm Saturday on UniMas. I will leave you with Mark Fishkin’s positive mojo for the Red Bulls:
The @NewYorkRedBulls haven't lost a league match since July 3rd, 2016, at NYC. That's 17 straight #MLS matches w/o a loss. Half a season.— Mark Fishkin (@MarkFishkin) March 7, 2017
You can catch OaM’s answers to Burgundy Wave’s questions here. (will update when link is available). Let’s get ‘em boys!