Know Your Enemy: Colorado Rapids
OTF’s Stephen Mangat is softer than a lullaby…
John Denver once sang about seeing fire rain down in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and with the Chicago Fire playing at the Colorado Rapids in a midweeker, I’m sure Fire fans are hoping that Denver’s words are prophetic.
That said, in the same song (“Rocky Mountain High”, natch) Denver sings about hanging around a campfire and being high with friends. Again, Fire fans may be wishing for the same thing, but pinning too many hopes on Denver’s lyrics is a dangerous thing, because it’s quite obvious that he was one stoned mofo when he wrote the song.
Whatever the case, Fire fans, it’s time to smoke ’em if you got ’em and take a look at Wednesday’s opponent, the Colorado Rapids…
PLAY THE MUSIC!!!
It’s a youth movement for Pablo Mastroeni’s side. About half the starting lineup is 25 or under and their oldest major/consistent contributor is 30. Even though they are young, this team has the players to win MLS Cup. Perhaps not this year, but with the Rapids only three points behind 2nd place RSL and eight behind Seattle (though with a game in hand), it’s not inconceivable that, as this squad matures throughout the season, they become a real threat to win it all.
From a tactical perspective, the real interesting bit will be what happens in the middle of the park. Spaniard Jose Mari is a skillful defensive midfielder who stops opposing attacks and starts Colorado’s. He’s joined by Dillon Powers, who is an all-arounder and a real driving force. In fact Powers is like two players in one, as he can do the dirty work of a defensive midfielder and the box-to-box attacking equally well. It’s an interesting pairing that leads to a dynamic midfield.
Clint Irwin got the starting job last year due to injuries, but he played well and has kept the #1 job. He’s one of a handful of guys who will be fighting for the USMNT spot when Nick Rimando and Tim Howard stop playing. In addition, Irwin has a really solid twitter feed, so go check him out.
No one in the back four truly stands out, though there is little about this group not to like. From right to left it’s Marvell Wynne, Shane O’Neill, Drew Moor, and Chris Klute. That’s serious quality in all four positions. In particular, keep an eye on both O’Neill and Klute, as people are talking up the youngsters for a real shot/spot with the USMNT soon. And in fact, they were already called into a camp at the beginning of this year.
Reigning rookie of the year Dillon Powers sets the tone with a style that’s reminiscent of Michael Bradley, as he’s a tough tackling, hard running, goal-scoring threat. Kamani Hill and Dillon Serna will be on the outsides, with Jose Mari joining Powers in the middle.
Mari is a lot like fellow-Spaniard Uri Rosell (of Sporting KC) in that he’s a defensive midfielder who is a great passer and reader of the game. He pairs well with Powers and provides the service that Hill and Serna need to take on opponents. Like the back four, this is a rather unheralded group, and like the back four, this is a very good unit.
Deshorn Brown is a handful, with size and speed to burn. He scored ten goals last year, which was one short of the rookie record. Since, he’s been capped by Jamaica. Brown has four this season after hitting for two on the weekend. Beware.
Also, don’t be surprised to see Edson Buddle, though he’s nowhere near the player he was a few years ago when he was scoring all the time for LA.
How can Chicago win?
Pressure the outside midfielders
While both Kamani Hill and Dillon Serna are talented players, they’re a bit lightweight and aren’t defensively inclined. In addition, they sometimes play a bit narrow so Chicago should have opportunities to make a difference out wide.
Get on Deshorn Brown
Brown is one of the league’s most dangerous forwards when he gets hot and he just scored two goals last weekend. He’s a bit of a difficult match-up, but he becomes a real nightmare when given space and freedom. Chicago’s defenders would be well-served to play tight to Brown, but also have a teammate waiting to back up.
Split Dillon Powers and Jose Mari
Jose Mari is positionally disciplined and Dillon Powers shows up all over the field. Both of these attributes are strengths for them as individuals, and when they stay close enough to one another, it’s a real strength for team. On the other hand, if the Fire could separate them, the center of the park would be open for the taking. This will require accurate passing and quickly switching the ball.
Good luck, Fire fans. Colorado is no joke, so get you may want to get a Rocky Mountain high of your own before, during, or after the match.
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OTF’s Stephen Mangat prefers balloons. Follow him @smangat12