Philosophical query: does it get any bigger than a Conference final? Because, yes, of course, there is playing for the actual MLS Cup, which is ‘bigger’ in terms of the literal stakes. However, if you lose in the Conference final, you and your friends are likely to characterize the season as ‘the year we had that improbable run through the playoffs’ as opposed to ‘that year we went all the way to the Cup.’ So getting by Seattle today is important for context and narrative.
And we all know that life is about context and narrative. Or, having pints with your friends and seeing the match.
The Rapids enter today’s game down 2-1 and in need of a win: a tie or a loss and the season is over. Here’s a graphic that sums up the scoreline implications, care of mlssoccer.com ‘s Ben ‘The Research’ Baer.
The importance of not conceding an away goal or two means that one can anticipate a fairly conservative and careful Rapids game plan for at least the first half. Expect the team to keep their defensive and midfield lines central or back, and not to venture forward with more than four or five players until late. Also, expect the Rapids to play either long-ball, ‘route one’ soccer, or to run down the wings and try to cross into the box, more than the team’s normal, balanced attacking approach. Defensive success probably hinges on stopping Seattle’s playmaking number 10 midfielder, Nicolas Lodeiro, who wreaked havoc on Colorado in leg 1.
Another thing to look for is a big game from Shkëlzen Gashi. Gashi was MIA in leg 1 against Los Angeles. Gashi then scored the pivotal golazo in leg 2 of that series. Gashi had a quiet night in the rain in Seattle on Tuesday, perhaps a lingering effect of the ankle injury he sustained against LA. If patterns mean anything*, Gashi will do something memorable in this one.
Sam Cronin is suspended for Yellow Card accumulation, and the Rapids lineup choice to replace him: Micheal Azira or Dillon Powers; will speak volumes as to what the Rapids are going to try to do.
Lastly, if the game is decided late, or even on PKs like it was leg 2 versus Los Angeles, then goalkeeping and subs are both going to play a big factor. Marlon Hairston and Marco Pappa have played the role of ‘late impact sub’ in recent matches, and GK Zac MacMath’s form has been exceptional in the absence of Tim Howard. Seattle will be choosing from a bench long on experience, including Andreas Ivanschitz, Zach Scott, Brad Evans and Hércules Gómez.
Colorado: Sam Cronin (Yellow Card Accumultion)
Suspended next card
None. Card accumulation resets for MLS Cup, other than a red card.
Colorado: Tim Howard (adductor) -- out; Dillon Serna (knee) -- out,
Seattle: Clint Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) -- out; Oalex Anderson (right hamstring strain) -- questionable
How to Watch
Match Date/Time: Sunday, November 27, 2:00 PM MST
Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Stream: Watch ESPN, ESPN on Roku app or Sling; MLS Live (Blackouts apply)
Radio: Altitude 950 AM
Weather: 51 F at game time, partly cloudy, winds ~17 mph.
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* Patterns don’t mean anything. The universe is a random chance generator, and small-sample determinants like this are patently absurd. But we could use a big goal from the Albanian, and the above format allows me to point out that he’s due.