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The Subaru Rocky Mountain Cup: Outlook and Analytics for the Second Leg

If there's going to be a game called "The Game of Their Lives" for the RapKids it's going to be this weekend against Real Salt Lake.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

There's three chalkboards to look at to for this matchup, the first one is the first game against Real Salt Lake, the one that ended in a draw. The second game is the most recent Rapids game, as that was the one with the lineup that we will most likely see in this next game. The third game is the most recent Real Salt Lake game, as that's going to be the most likely lineup they will play against Colorado this weekend.

Looking at the results, it's not hard to see that Salt Lake looks like the more in form team. They have more experience on their roster, more known talent on their roster, and most importantly, they've got their leader, Kyle Beckerman, back on the field. His influence on Salt Lake can't be underestimated.

Putting it frankly, the Rapids are hurting. They have 19 players available for selection currently. 19 players. To be the one player that doesn't make the 18 must feel pretty terrible. I really wish i could paint a better picture for you, but it looks like the Rapids are favored to get swept, and swept pretty badly. Portland is a team still in transition, and they were able to pull out a result by attacking a young team where a young team would be weakest: set pieces late in the game.

First game to look at is the first game against RSL. Where was the ball being won back?

For the most part, the Rapids won the ball back in their own defensive third. Except, you'll notice in that matrix this weird ball recovery by number 26 all the way up in RSL's defensive third. What was that about?

Oh yeah.

WHO'S THAT? BROOOOWWWN got that goal because he pressured the defenders, pestered Real Salt Lake's possession based system where it begins, which is in the back. As we've learned over time, if you're meeting Real Salt Lake in the Midfield, you've already waited too long. This has to be part of the strategy as Oscar Pareja puts together his X's and O's for this game. Which a chance like that might be one in an million, harassing Salt Lake's back four, especially with it having the most new players out of any position, might be the most fruitful way to attack the game.

Hendry Thomas is going to be baby sitting for Luis Gil. This is no easy task especially as Beckerman is going to be leading the troops like he did last week in Seattle. Fact is, on any other day I think Thomas can lock Gil down easy and win some possession off of the rising RSL star midfielder, but if anyone is providing a stable outlet for Gil (Beckerman would be the most likely safe bet) then RSL can continue pressing the game through possession.

Let's pay attention to where the ball is being possessed here.

Salt Lake is having a ton of possession events going on in Seattle's final third. Gil is all over the place. Velasquez is all over the place, but you don't see a lot of Beckerman until you get to the middle of the park. That's because he's pushing the game up. He's trying to contain everything, and be an outlet for Gil and Velasquez to pass back and keep possession.

Who's that guy for Colorado now? Check the map for the Portland game for this.

Thomas is the anchor man, but look at how far back he's sitting. This "possession" map follows his heat map, so it's a good general idea of Hendry Thomas' field position. For comparison look at the RSL Map. Both cases, the Rapids lost the possession game. He sits right in front of that final third of the field. Beckerman, by contrast, sits right about at midfield. Thomas isn't going to be the guy to match wits with the RSL Captain. Who is it going to be, then?

It's going to be whoever's possession map this belongs to

You might remember him better as this guy. Mr. ThunderBolt.

Dillon Powers has got to have more of a Portland Timbers type game than the game he had against Real Salt Lake the first time around. For one thing, you'll notice he's defending far too far back in the Salt Lake Game. In the Portland Timbers game, he's disrupting play up the field, this is something that Pablo Mastroeni used to do for us on his best days. The Midfield battle is going to be between him and Beckerman. That's my key match up for this game is Powers against Beckerman. Mark it down here. How Dillon Powers is able to win the ball and keep it from the guy who, honestly, most resembles Powers himself in the league, is going to ultimately determine what the result is.

Interestingly, I was talking on Twitter a little while ago about who Powers resembles in this league and if I had to pick someone, it would be Kyle Beckerman, not Jeff Larentowicz. Powers is one of the guys who has to have the game of his life against RSL. If he doesn't, then RSL is going to have a lot more time on the ball, and with their attacking talent starting to bloom... that's not a good thing. It's a very bad thing. We're going to end up like the Sounders withRobbie Findley scoring on us.


All this is not the bad news, though. The bad news is set pieces. Look, if Tony Cascio puts in another great shift, Powers absolutely bosses Beckerman, and Thomas is able to babysit properly, we could have a game on our hands. But that's just the run of play. The Rapids can boss the run of play all they want, but if they aren't putting away chances (and I'm not counting on Buddle to open his account) then set pieces are going to kill them. Robbie Findley's goal was off of a set piece and a confused Seattle defense. Watch that clip again. Everyone is falling all over everyone else and Findley gets lucky. Good news for him. Bad news for everyone else.

Especially bad news for the Rapids. Check out how bad we were on set pieces against the Timbers.



The first goal was a "second phase" of the set piece where Will Johnson was unmarked, totally, in the box. The second was a penalty earned off a corner kick. These are the kinds of errors that cost a result. Set pieces take concentration and focus on small details because of the havoc that they inevitably cause. Whoever best keeps his head in that chaos stands to either profit or perish by a set piece. This is the bad news, Colorado was very poor on set pieces. Real Salt Lake, against Seattle, was very good about them.

Lastly, I don't expect Colorado to create a ton of chances here. But if they do, they're going to have to come through the wings. Cascio, I expect, will shoulder a lot of the burden here. He did against Portland, and he could put in another shift like that against RSL. A lot of that "creative" aspect of the offense is going to come through him. Unless, of course, Pareja pulls a fast one on us and plays Dillon Serna. Which I am in no way against. Serna could add an element in here of unpredictability that could either be amazing or terrible against RSL. They don't know him, but we do. That's a good ace to have.

So here's what has to happen in this game in order for any result to be possible, and I don't mean to get your hopes up too much, Real Salt Lake look set to sweep this game and thus most likely they will keep the RMC for another year. For any result to be possible, the following must happen:

1) Powers somehow picks Beckerman clean enough times to disrupt the RSL possession machine, and is able to keep the ball from him enough to get something going.

2) Thomas is able to keep RSL's young tandem of Velasquez and Gil in check so they don't start getting cute.

3) Brown learns his lesson from the first game well and absolutely brutalizes the RSL defense early and often.

4) Set pieces never come anywhere near close to the Rapids' final third.

If all those things happen, the Rapids could pull a result out of this, and this will probably be regarded as a miracle for the RapKids and Pareja's critics will be no doubt silenced for at least one more week.