Been a while, hasn't it? That long 21 day layoff between league games is finally coming to a close on Saturday as the Colorado Rapids take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Rapids have never lost a game to the Whitecaps but they've only had a year's worth of sample size, picking up two 2-1 victories in the Whitecaps' inaugural, wooden spoon winning season.
Unfortunately, (for us, anyway) the Whitecaps have gotten a lot better since that season, adding a ton more talent to the squad which has given them the fourth best record in the Western Conference. Defensively especially, they have shown some skill and kept more clean sheets already in this young season than they had all year in 2011.
Here's three keys for the Rapids as they try to sneak out some more road points, this time at BC Place.The Winger/Strikers - This was my #1 key to the game in the Thugcast, and it's gonna be my #1 key to the game here. The Whitecaps and Rapids both play fairly narrow games in the midfield -- this assumes that the Rapids will continue with their 4-3-3 formation as they did against the Montreal Impact -- with the Rapids hardly sending anyone in the middle three outside when they're in their 4-3-3 at all.
This is going to leave a decent amount of space on the outside of the pitch, and the two players who will be able to exploit that the most will be the two guys playing the outside striker position. Sure, they're called strikers, but they play like wingers a lot -- that's the reason I always prefer calling this formation a 4-5-1 rather than a 4-3-3 -- which should see them holding the ball a lot in the attacking half of the park on the wing. I'm assuming that it will be Omar Cummings (barring health) and Tony Cascio manning those spots, not a bad duo to have. If they can do good things with the rock out there, the Rapids should get some goals out of the day.
Scott Palguta - Last year's Whitecaps game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park was one of the two instances last season of 'Palguta giveth, Palguta taketh away'. Scott was both responsible for and a scorer of a goal, which is a weird type of game to have. With Marvell Wynne still out on Saturday, Palguta is likely to start at center back. We'd prefer if he just spends the entire game doing nothing particularly noteworthy. At least he can't do worse than Tyrone Marshall! (Tempting fate is fun!)
Casey/Cummings - Conor Casey and Omar Cummings might be playing together, if injury reports are to be believed, for the first time in what seems like forever on Saturday. If both of them are legitimately healthy enough to take the field together, we're going to expect some fireworks out of the strikers. Against the Whitecaps defense that has improved quite a bit this season compared to last, it will be a godsend to have what was considered the best strikeforce in the league in 2010 manning the top for the Rapids, and if they're both up top it should be a fun game to watch if they can quickly get that camaraderie back.
Of course, this is assuming that they both play. Let's not be too optimistic here. (Edit: And just like on cue, Omar Cummings is not traveling!)