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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids - Three Keys to the Game

Pablo Mastroeni missing is a big issue.
Pablo Mastroeni missing is a big issue.

I said before that to be a successful month, the Colorado Rapids needed to get 11 out of the 21 possible points in the month. After two games they have two points which means that they need at least three wins to close out the month out of their next five games. That's a tall order indeed - only getting a draw out of that July 4th Houston match really stung - and it makes the Vancouver game today pretty much the first 'must win' game of the season.

Here's three keys to making it happen.

Attack Down The Middle - The Rapids have had a strange syndrome since the first few games of the season where they've seemed to eschew playing their game down the middle - the spine of the team being its greatest strength - and instead focused on getting the ball down the wings and hoping for something to happen inside the six yard box as they lob cross after cross towards the net. Unfortunately, as we've seen the past few games it just hasn't worked out. When it comes to open play, they just rarely seem to get the ball toward the net lately in those situations with their goals coming from angling inward into the eighteen yard box and making the plays happen from there; look at their last goal from open play, the one against the Los Angeles Galaxy. Omar Cummings took the ball around the edge of the box, cut inside and let loose a shot that was rebounded in by Conor Casey. A prototypical goal for the Rapids offense, and the type of thing that they need to start creating the chances for again.

Having Pablo Mastroeni in the locker room all game won't help this cause any but the Rapids still need to remember where their strengths lie, in the middle of the field where they should be able to gut the fairly weak Vancouver defense. Alternatively they could always just try and score all of their goals from set pieces - their last two goals have come off a corner and a long free kick after all - but it's no surprise that after this team's struggles on set pieces all season long that might be a tall order if they're looking to win this game and win it definitively.

Once Again, Keep The D - As much as I've tooted the #FREEWALLY horn, the defense of Drew Moor - Tyrone Marshall - Marvell Wynne - Kosuke Kimura that the Rapids have trotted out the last two games have produced probably the two best defensive games we've seen this season out of the Rapids. Houston was held completely ineffective and Kansas' only goal came on a rare breakdown in the middle that Matt Pickens probably should have stopped and held onto in the first place. With the Rapids struggling to find a lineup that works to full effectiveness all season, keeping that back four is probably the best idea especially since Vancouver might not be at their best offensively with all the players they'll be missing. The only alternative that I could possibly see working is taking the weakest link of the bunch in Kimura out, playing Wynne at right back with Moor and Marshall in the center and re-inserting the underrated Anthony Wallace into his usual starting left back role. Either way, we know what works with this team and they have to keep putting out the most effective four they can.

Pablo's Spot - Missing your team captain is never a good thing, but the Rapids showed back in the FC Dallas match that they have no real replacement on the team for Pablo Mastroeni's box to box midfield spot. Joseph Nane is pretty much a straight up defender and shouldn't be called on to do much of anything else. Ross LaBeaux is well suited to the role but is still too young and inexperienced to really take the reins. The best idea is probably to put Jamie Smith in the attacking central midfield role. It's a tough decision, but one that will impact this match greatly depending on what direction Gary Smith decides to go.

Could we possibly see a 4-3-3 formation with only Jeff Larentowicz in the middle?