The Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City get together tonight in Commerce City in a match that has implications for both clubs. The Rapids will be looking to continue their three month unbeaten run as they push for the playoffs whereas Sporting will be looking to continue on their 3-1-2 run.
Cody from The Blue Testament and I exchanged questions about this match and what we might expect in Commerce City:
Burgundy Wave: What in the world is going on with Matt Besler?
The Blue Testament: Matt did not have the best start to the season. He had some really poor moments, but I wouldn't necessarily say that he was bad. But with Ike Opara and Nuno Coelho also killing it, Besler definitely felt like the third best CB on the team. When Besler went away for Copa duty, Coelho also went down. That moved Lawrence Olum into a starting spot. Something that would have scared any Sporting KC fan. But then SKC went on this run of good form. When Besler came back Vermes wasn't really thinking Olum was better than Besler, but the lineup was working and why fix what isn't broken? It was weird to see the captain on the bench, but you can't argue with results. Then Matt started in Chicago on Wednesday and the unbeaten run was ended. Now that wasn't because of Besler (ref took away a fair goal from Dwyer for offside), but a superstitious person would be saying I told you so.
Burgundy Wave: Sporting has seen their form greatly improve in the last month or so going 3-1-2. What has changed?
The Blue Testament: The biggest thing is that they finally started scoring goals. Sporting KC had not scored three goals a single time the entire season but did it two times in a row over that stretch. I was never convinced that things were as bad as most fans believed, but they have definitely looked good lately. The matches against Columbus and NYCFC were about the best I've seen this team look in a couple years actually. The defense improved and was doing JUST enough, but nothing spectacular. As far as what has actually changed, Jimmy Medranda and Benny Feilhaber. Medranda finally locked down a starting spot and has honestly been one of the best on the team lately. Feilhaber struggled at the beginning of the year. And by struggled I mean he was really bad. Cover your eyes bad at times. Benny has come around a bit and started to make things happen in the midfield again.
Burgundy Wave: 13 games left for Sporting and they are in a playoff spot, but the season has been challenging. What is the mood right now?
The Blue Testament: Well.. my mood is good! I think they are in a great spot to peak at the right time. Whether that is to climb the ranks or to peak in the playoffs and make a run at the Cup. However, I do feel that we are basically always two bad games in a row from "fire Vermes" talk and fans posting dumpster fire images on the Cauldron Facebook Page. The recent run of form reminded everyone that this team has the talent to play with anyone when they are in form. To end the streak with a loss a against a lowly Chicago Fire is rough, but having that goal taken away in the first minute changed the game and I don't think too many people are upset about that. Anything can happen in the playoffs, so as long as they stay above the red line people will be happy enough.
And here are my answer to Cody's questions:
The Blue Testament: The Rapids have proved the solid start to the season was no fluke. They are sitting strong in second place in the West at the moment. How have your expectations changed and are looking for some silverware this season?
Burgundy Wave: It's interesting. Normally at this time of year a Rapids fan understands that playoffs are going to be out of the question or it is going to be a struggle to even make them. But right now, we are in the weird position of being in playoff position with a realistic shot at Supporters Shield (Dallas is up by 3 points but have played three more games than the Rapids). So, for many Rapids fans, this is a strange feeling.
In addition, there is this sense that we should win games. For example: we play Sporting today. We expect to win this game because we feel that we are the better team. That expectation has not been there very often in the history of this team, so it is an interesting, but also nice, feeling to have.
As for Silverware, I think most fans are hopeful, but also realistic. It is too difficult to forecast four months ahead to see if the Rapids will be there or not as so many (crazy) things tend to happen in MLS.
The Blue Testament: Tim Howard has two MLS games under his belt. How has he looked so far? Still got some good years between the posts?
Burgundy Wave: Howard has looked very good in his two games and I he should be a solid player for the next couple of years. He is bringing solid leadership to the squad and he continues to energize a fan base. So far, it has been a good pick up by the Burgundy Boys.
The Blue Testament: I'm curious as to who is getting credit for the turnaround this year. Many wanted Pablo fired last season... Has he earned back the respect yet?
Burgundy Wave: Credit--this is tough. I was talking with some buddies last night and we asked that question: should Pablo get the credit for this? I am not sure that he should get all the credit for this dramatic turnaround, but yes...Pablo has gotten better as a coach. I think a great amount of the credit should go to the Front Office for bringing in players like Howard, Jermaine Jones, Shkelzen Gashi, Micheal Azira, Mekeil Williams and Marco Pappa who have made this so much stronger. But, yes, Pablo has earned a lot of respect back.