This series will focus on what most everybody talks about on social media before a game--the starting lineup. I believe everybody has a bit of a backseat manager inside them. We all like to think we know better than the manager. I particularly get a bit frustrated every single time the Rapids come out with nine defensive players and say they are trying to play a more offensive minded style. To vent these frustrations I will go into a short look at the matchup, opposing teams' tactics, and finally how I think our Colorado Rapids should line up to deal with the other teams' threats and exploit their weaknesses.
Sunday night our Colorado Rapids will face the Houston Dynamo in the Bayou City. The match will start at 6:30 pm MDT and the current forecast is partly cloudy with a slight chance for rain with temperatures around 89°F. Both teams' odds of making the playoffs now are slim to none. The Houston Dynamo are coming off a tough home game against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. With this being the fourth matchup between the teams this year, will we see any tactical changes to either side?
The Houston Dynamo have a few key players that the Rapids should watch out for. Their top goal scorer is Will Bruin, with Giles Barnes and Ricardo Clark tied for second. Brad Davis is their top attacking producer and is dangerous taking set pieces. From what I have seen, I don't think the Dynamo are very fast in the midfield or in central defense, but they do have pretty fast fullbacks. Like the Rapids they also like to cross the ball into the box and hope their tall forwards can get the ball in the net. The biggest unknown for the team is probably Erick Torres; he was supposed to come in and instantly bring attacking life to the team, but fitness and chemistry issues appear to be holding him back from scoring goals and racking up assists.
With a slow defense and midfield and streaking fullbacks the Dynamo should be highly susceptible to quick diagonal runs into the box, and with the wings clogged the Rapids should try to play through the midfield and avoid the wings. This game calls for a 4-5-1 formation and requires a strong midfield spine. I say we play a combo of Juan Ramirez, Marcelo Sarvas, Dillon Powers, Dillon Serna, and Gabriel Torres. This should give the Rapids enough distribution through the middle and get almost all of our attacking talent on the field at once. We also shouldn't lose the ball too easily as most of these players are accurate passers. For the lone forward I would go with Kevin Doyle as he is the top goal scorer and Luis Solignac is coming back from injury. The defense is a bit tougher since some of our better players were traded away or injured, but I think a back four of Michael Harrington, Drew Moor, Bobby Burling, and Maynor Figueroa would be the best combo of strong and tall center backs. This should help us deal with set pieces and crosses while having streaking fullbacks to add width to a congested midfield.
As for the game plan, I don't want to strand Doyle on an island. Instead I see Serna, Torres, and Ramirez rotating around the field as they see fit. Powers should play more as a box-to-box mid and distribute the ball from the defense to our fast runners in forward positions. Sarvas would be tasked as the midfield general: his job will be to help organize the defensive shape and disrupt any central play by the Dynamo. He will also be tasked with the important job of getting the ball to Powers who will in turn distribute to the forwards. As for the defense, with a well-organized midfield, their main priority should be marking during set pieces and crosses. Though dangerous, I believe a high defensive line with use of the offside trap would be an excellent counter to Houston's streaky wing play.
As backseat managers we all think we know better, so what do you guys think? Who or what should the Rapids look out for against the Dynamo? How should the starting lineup look? What should the Rapids' approach be to the game?