This Saturday the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders play for the first time in 2015 with both clubs sitting outside of the playoffs. For the Sounders, they are coming off a 1-0 loss to LA Galaxy where they were clearly the better team and for the Rapids, they are coming off the thrashing of FC Dallas. What to expect from this match? Here are the thought of Dave Clark at Sounder at Heart:
Burgundy Wave: The Sounders are (arguably) the best team in MLS, but have had a slower start this year. Why is this?
Sounder At Heart: The cause for this year's slow start begins with Osvaldo Alonso and end with Osvaldo Alonso. While other players were missing due to injury or National Team call Ozzie's injury was for multiple games and the whole of preseason. A lot of what Sounders do is built around Alonso's fierce defense and his ability to quickly start attacks after winning the ball. Azira can fill in as a CDM, but he isn't the type to get the ball forward. Other injuries are a problem; playing without one of Dempsey or Martins is rough, but there's still the other one. Not having Alonso is something Seattle cannot afford.
BW: Seattle is generating the lowest numbers of shots in the league, but the fourth highest SOG. Is it a matter of creating chances, or are they just making the best of the chances they have?
SAH: When your two forwards are both MVP candidates it is easy to see why chance conversion is so high. Clint and Oba are extraordinary soccer players who mesh together quite well. What's hurting Seattle's offense is that the supporting cast of Neagle, Pappa and Barrett aren't putting themselves in dangerous places. Lamar looked much better against LA so the numbers should trend up. If they don't the stable of young guns (Mansaray, Jones, Kovar) will need to pull through.
BW: For Seattle....is it MLS Cup or bust this year? Or will ownership be OK with not winning the ultimate trophy in MLS?
SAH: Probably not. They've taken a rather rational view of things throughout their ownership. The point is to compete for every trophy with MLS Cup and CCL championship being the highest targets. If the Sounders are competitive but do not win they didn't fail and no one needs to get fired over it. The process will move right along and they'll continue to be the Atlanta Braves of MLS. Plus, the window on the talent likely has one more year after this. Next year is when it gets really interesting because so much of the starting XI will be past their prime by then.
Predicting Formation: Frei; Remick, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Neagle, Pineda, Alonso, Pappa; Dempsey, Martins
Predicted Score: 2-1 Seattle.
You can see my side of the conversation over at Sounder at Heart.