The Colorado Rapids will look to right the ship against the Lions of Orlando City as they make the cross country flight for a Saturday afternoon match. The Rapids are coming off a disappointing loss at Minnesota United FC last weekend whilst the Lions are flying high after a solid 2-1 victory on the road vs. New York City FC at Yankee Stadium.
As we look forward to this match, Michael from The Mane Land and I exchanged questions about Orlando City and Colorado. You can find my answers to his questions over on The Mane Land.
Burgundy Wave: The Lions are 5-1-0 (15 points) so far this season and are top in the East. Is this for real, and is it sustainable?
The Mane Land: We certainly hope so. Improvements must be made for the Lions to sustain their early results. The main concern is the team’s offense hasn’t been as dangerous in 2017, but there are a number of factors that have affected that, including Kaká’s absence since the 11th minute of the season, some bad luck on Carlos Rivas’ part, a few gimmes that didn’t get converted, and the team adjusting to new players and a new shape. The thought is that this team has perhaps been a bit fortunate in a couple of games but also hasn’t peaked yet.
Getting to play four of the first six at home in the new stadium was helpful in achieving such a good early record. Orlando City’s match at New England was postponed due to weather and that helped the club build a bit more confidence at home before finally going on the road and beating New York City FC.
BW: Jason Kreis is in his first full season at the helm and clearly things are going well in Orlando. What kind of impact has he had on the club and how are supporters feeling about him?
TML: Kreis has had a tremendous impact on the culture of the team. He has brought in some of “his guys” such as Will Johnson, who have added character, improved the work rate, and provided leadership to some of the younger players. There’s an atmosphere of accountability on the team that has built up and at the same time Orlando City was becoming a more responsible defensive team, the players were growing closer and there seems a genuine willingness on their part to sacrifice for one another.
Supporters were originally mixed on Kreis because Adrian Heath is a likeable guy and had success here during the USL days – and Kreis was slow to impact results because the team lacked the fitness and some of the key pieces to play the style he wanted. Now that there is evidence that putting the right pieces in place produces results, I think the vast majority of the fan base is quite happy about the hiring of Jason Kreis.
BW: For the Rapids to get a result they will need to bunker and pray. To get that done they will need to stop a potent Orlando attack. With that in mind, how do the Burgundy Boys stop Cyle Larin?
TML: That’s a question we get a lot but I honestly have no good answer. Teams have doubled him, fouled him, and even seemingly marked him out of games, but he still usually finds a way to deliver. For the majority of the LA Galaxy game two weeks ago, Jelle Van Damme was practically inside Larin’s uniform with him, committing several fouls and even getting booked while trying to take the Canadian out of the match. And even though he was quiet for 90 minutes, he still used his strength to fight off Jermaine Jones and score the match winner in stoppage time.
With Cyle it can often be about cutting off his service, which can frustrate the young striker. But that’s getting harder to do this year for multiple reasons. First, the fullbacks are doing a better job of integrating into the attack and providing quality crosses, including three assists in the last two games. That dimension has been mostly lacking the last two years. Second, the switch to a 4-4-2 has pushed Carlos Rivas – the team’s best crosser of the ball – into the strike tandem up top with Larin. Rivas has created space for Cyle and outstanding passes the Canadian has simply had to tap in. With Kaká returning, and the additions of Giles Barnes and Will Johnson to the midfield, it’s tough to keep all avenues to Larin closed off. But it can be done if teams are diligent for the full 90.
This is tough because with the captain close to a return and the team playing so well, I’m not sure who would come out. I’ll say that Kaká maybe gets back in the 18 this week but doesn’t start, so we might see this one again:
Joe Bendik; Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, Tommy Redding, Scott Sutter; Cristian Higuita, Giles Barnes, Antonio Nocerino, Will Johnson; Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin.
Colorado generally plays a stingy defensive style. I think the Rapids will hold this to a 1-0 win for City but if they can find a breakthrough Colorado could escape with a 1-1 draw.