With a bye this week, the Colorado Rapids will have had two full weeks to prepare for their home opener against New York City FC. Rather than preview NYCFC a week early, I thought I'd give some thoughts about what Rapids fans might want to look out for in NYCFC's game this week. Here are the questions I'd like answered from their play this weekend.
1) Is NYCFC's defense it's greatest liability?
Against Orlando, both teams moved the ball across the field like butter through a hot knife (wut?). NYCFC in particular looked like a team full of holes on the defensive side. The picture below is the best I could find to illustrate it, although if you went back to the game film itself, there are better examples.
NYCFC ‘s defense sat back and gave ORL a lot of space, which allowed Orlando to make passes behind the midfield and in front of the defensive line with impunity. Orlando's attackers Kevin Molino, Carlos Rivas, and Kaka struggled to exploit the gaps for goals. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that Josh Saunders stopped two sure goals in the first half, despite his defenders lapses. But if a team like New England can make those passes behind the midfield and beat the GK, NYC will be in trouble.
2) Can Norweigian Messi be stopped?
Mix Diskerud was openly touted by some as the future #10 for the USMNT, while others regarded him as an overrated, overblown, and under-talented acquisition as your team's centerpiece DP. Although some thought he played too deep against Orlando, the stats imply he was magnificent. He completed 72 of 76 passes, and as the chart below shows, they were deep, forward, left, right, long, and short.
He picked out David Villa perfectly on one (a ‘key chance'), in between all the defenders, only for Villa to scuff it weakly off to the right. If a team can stop Mix, I would wager that this offense lacks any other options to make things happen in the offensive end.
3) Speaking of which, does this team have any other scoring threats besides Mix?
As mentioned above, Villa blew his golden opportunity. Nemec looked like hot garbage throughout; he blew a header and a shot, but often looked out of place or a step slow. Khiry Shelton had a nice run on goal blocked, but had only a few chances in his 15 minutes on the pitch.
Many NYCFC fans are already calling for Khiry Shelton to take Nemec's spot. But whoever plays up top, they'll need to finish in the weeks to come. Maybe Villa is just shaking off the rust from his layoff. We'll see this week against the New England Revolution. I know I'll be watching.