Scouting the Opposition: A Look at the Colorado Rapids with Shaun Schafer

Prior to each match, New England Soccer Today will invite a reporter from the other side to provide insight regarding the Revolution’s next opponent.

This week, Colorado Soccer Now writer Shaun Schafer shared his thoughts on the state of the Colorado Rapids and what the Revs can expect when they travel to take on the Rapids on Saturday night.

What is the Colorado Rapids form lately? How have they been at home?

The Revs are set to take on the Rapids at 9 p.m. Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.

“The Rapids have been strong at home all season and on a tear as of late. The team unleashed a pair of 3-0 routs on consecutive weekends. Colorado blew three past the Houston Dynamo in the first half on Aug. 28 and spent the second half playing keep away against a 10-man squad. On Sept. 4, the Rapids came out flat in the first half and then came to life through forward Omar Cummings. The Jamaica keyed the first goal and then scored a brace of his own.”

What is their likely starting 11 on Saturday? Any key injuries?

“Until this week, the starting 11 was getting pretty easy to predict. However, the trade of attacking midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy to New York on Tuesday and the acquisition of midfielder Brian Mullan from Houston right before the deadline on Wednesday introduced some speculation.

“The only injury to consider is defender Julien Baudet, who will be replaced by Marvell Wynne. Wynne has been out with a hamstring injury similar to what Baudet suffered in last week’s 3-1 loss to New York.

“Expect Pickens in goal with Kimura, Wynne, Moor and Wallace across the back. Casey and Cummings will be up top. In between, will be Mastroeni and former Rev Larentowicz, with Smith on the right and either Lopez or Mullan on the left.

Coach Gary Smith has talked about moving to a 4-3-3 with newcomer Macoumba Kandji up top. This seems unlikely.”

What do you feel are the Rapids’ weaknesses that opponents have been able to exploit?

“They are slow starters. Ignoring the Dynamo game, they often come out flat and misfiring. On defense, they can give teams too much respect. The Red Bulls had all sorts of room in midfield this past Saturday and built a 2-0 lead.

“Early in the season, the Rapids were weak on set pieces. This has been solved, but replacing Baudet with Wynne means a loss of presence in the air in the middle of defense.”

What seem to be the Rapids’ strengths this season?

“Defense. They have been organized and tough to crack. Pickens is under-appreciated in goal, and Mastroeni and Larentowicz have been great at shutting down attacks.

“When they get the ball, Cummings (nine goals) and Casey (nine goals) have been coldly efficient in the attack.”

What players should fans keep an eye on Saturday?

“Casey. Cummings is the hot foot right now with four goals in the past three games, but Casey’s ability to score and provide opportunities for others in the past month has ignited the team.

“It will also be interesting to see who starts in the midfield with Mastroeni and Larentowicz. Smith and Mullan or former Rev Thompson are the safe choices. Lopez is the X-factor. He’s the best ballhandler on the team, and he delivers precision passing from anywhere on the field.”

Shaun Schafer’s coverage of the Rapids can be seen at ColoradoSoccerNow.com.

Shaun took over the soccer site in March, after years of playing the game and following the Rapids. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and currently teaches journalism at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters.

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About Sean Donahue

Sean Donahue has been covering the New England Revolution since 2002 for various publications. He has covered four MLS Cups, in addition to covering various international matches, including World Cup Qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He has done freelance work for the AP and ESPN Boston. Sean hosted Revolution Recap, a weekly radio program covering the New England Revolution and U.S. Men's National Team from 2005-2008. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters. Sean can be reached at nesoccertoday@gmail.com or followed on twitter @SeanLDonahue