FRISCO, TX - MAY 6: Martin Rivero #10 of the Colorado Rapids. Is he the edge in the game against DC United? (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
Look, it's Martin Rivero eating a giant invisible cheeseburger.
Anyway, there wasn't a game this weekend for the Colorado Rapids, but there was one for our competition at midweek, D.C. United.
Here's a novel thing, let's see how these teams are coming into the match at RFK, and then we'll try to work out what kind of a game we can expect to see. Please note, I won't be making in projections on score that you can bet on. Don't come hunting me down if I'm wrong because you were stupid enough to bet on something you read on a blog on the internet. If anything, hunt yourself down. It's easier. If you can't manage to hunt yourself down... I have no remedy for you.
Let's get started on breaking these teams down. I'm going to be using the Opta Chalkboard, injury reports, and some other information (mostly obtained through divination and some Tibetan breathing techniques) to give us a look at what kind of a game to expect on Wednesday when the Colorado Rapids take on DC United.
Hope you enjoy it. Join me after the jump.
First, I have to eat some crow: UZ was right when he said this is a good DC United team. There we go. Crow eaten. This is a better DC United team than in previous years. But I'm still not convinced they are a great team. They are good, but I don't think the numbers bear out a truly great team. As it stands, I think they are an OK team with great players. This plays itself out in the Houston game.
DC United will chalk this up to injuries, and they might have a case to make for that, but the injuries only hurt them insofar as they've been working towards giving Perry Kitchen a pivot position in front of the back four rather than having him line up with the defense. This move has paid dividends for them this season, and they've enjoyed more success than in previous years. But now Kitchen is injured, and they are going to have to rely on Stephen King. Stephen King is not bad. In fact, I might go so far as to say he's not that much of a downgrade over Kitchen by the numbers.
But neither of them are truly midfield bosses, their distribution is not nearly the rate of a true midfield boss like, say Jeff Larentowicz, Kyle Beckerman, or Dwayne DeRosario. DeRo is on a fine run of form, and for the position he plays, DC United is going to need him. His distribution rate, even for as high up as he plays, is untarnished. He's still one of the best in MLS as far as forward distribution goes, and he's only getting better. In this game, expect a battle of midfield bosses: Larentowicz against DeRosario.
Not that I expect a lot of one-on-one confrontation between the two of them, but I feel like this battle is going to be more of a battle of wits. Larentowicz is going to have to figure out how to outsmart deRosario and break up his distribution. Think of it like this: DeRo is to Forwards what Larentowicz is to Defenders. This is my Key Match Up of the game. And Larentowicz has been having a great time lately. The Dallas game was really his playground. He had 90 completed passes in that game. 90. That's a lot. DeRo had 40, but let's be fair. Larentowicz is passing from deeper in the field and DeRo was playing against 10 field players.
Defensively, both Colorado and DC United are going to have to make due. The loss of Marvell Wynne is critical for Colorado. Without him, Colorado is more vulnerable to a quick counterattack, as the only replacement for Wynne that Pareja favors is Tyrone Marshall--who plays a similar game to Drew Moor. Neither Moor nor Marshall can chase a ground ball down like Marvell Wynne, but then again not many Center Backs in the league can boast that kind of speed and control.
By the numbers, Wynne and Marshall look similar, but you have to factor in the fact that Wynne's specialty as a defender is to break up the ground game. But don't worry, because other than DeRo, the offensive game of DC seems to come through the wings: Najar and and Cruz. Unfortunately for the Rapids, these offensive weapons will be ready to go for the game on Wednesday. Kosuke Kimura or Hunter Freeman and Luis Zapata will be in for a long night.
What about Colorado's offense? After losing Omar Cummings against Dallas due to a rolled ankle, will Colorado find a way to score? My answer is: sure. Colorado's offensive depth is good. Tony Cascio will be a handful, Brian Mullan can be a good weapon if he's ignored as a threat (which Dallas did at their own peril), and of course... the thing that MLS fears most (and should fear) is the return of Conor Casey.
Casey's return and the revelation of Kamani Hill as a super-sub is going to give DC United problems, plain and simple. DC has to hope that Casey still cannot go 90 minutes. Hill has been an absolute revelation and by the chalkboard numbers and his performances, I expect him to be this year's Chris Wondolowski. Heard it here first.
United's defense will be hurting because of the loss of Chris Korb, mostly because I don't think they have a suitable replacement. DC United doesn't play much offense through overlapping fullbacks. So expect the wing play to come mostly through Najar and Cruz. Their backs are going to stay back. They usually do.
Finally, and here's what I believe is going to pull the match in favor of Colorado: Martin Rivero is better than Stephen King. That's really all you need to know. If DC lines up in a diamond 4-4-2 and they've got King as their pivot, Martin Rivero is going to have a very good day. Rivero had a great game against Dallas, but then again who didn't, but he also had one against New England. It's up to the forwards to put the ball away, and I'm more than confident in a resurgent Conor Casey to do just that.
So there it is. Me looking at numbers and telling you things based on those numbers.
FINAL CHALKBOARD THOUGHTS:
Battle of the Game: Jeff Larentowicz versus Dwayne DeRosario. The mental chess game of midfield bosses. Who can organize his troops better?
The Edge: COLORADO: Martin Rivero. Against Stephen King. DC UNITED: Andy Najar. Against Kosuke Kimura.
The Achilles Heel: COLORADO: Centerback play. DC UNITED: Back Pivot in a Diamond 4-4-2.