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Game 14: The Rapids get Union-ized

The Burgundy Boys travel east to take on a strong Philadelphia Union side.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rapids are starting to look like a brand new team. We’re starting to gel, we’re starting to play with an identity, and we’re starting to play with confidence. Unfortunately, next up is a trip to Pennsylvania to play against Eastern Conference powerhouse Philadelphia Union.

The Union have been doing well. Like, very well. They are second in the Eastern Conference, sitting just one point behind DC United but with a game in hand. They ended last year just above the playoff line and while they didn’t go for a complete roster overhaul in the off-season, Philly did pick up several important players. Arguably the biggest is Marco Fabian, the Mexican midfielder formerly with Eintracht Frankfurt of the Bundesliga. He signed on as a Designated Player but hasn’t made many appearances yet (and they haven’t really needed a lot from him so far anyway). Their roster has kept them alive against some challenging opponents, and they’ve been a consistent team all year.

The Union are fairly dedicated to a 4-4-2 diamond formation, similar to what we used to play. What is notable with this team, however, is how surprisingly young they are. Philadelphia has six homegrown players on their roster, and several of them are seeing consistent minutes. Their starting goalkeeper has been rotating quite a lot recently, though homegrown Matt Freese has gotten the start twice this year already. Brazilian keeper Carlos Miguel Coronel and Jamaican keeper Andre Blake have been alternating along with Freese all year. The back four has been very consistent with Kai Wagner, homegrown player Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott, and Raymon Gaddis starting in four of the last five games. Between them and the goalkeepers, the team has only allowed 15 goals over their fourteen games. This is a very, very good defense.

In the midfield, the #6 role is filled by Haris Medunjanin. The left and right sides of the diamond are Jamiro Monteiro and DP Alejandro Bedoya. The tip of the diamond is usually homegrown Brenden Aaronson, although this is also has been occupied by their other DP Marco Fabian. Aaronson is only 18 years old, but has started pretty frequently recently. Their two strikers are Kacper Przybylko and Fabrice-Jean Picault. They’ve scored 24 goals so far, good enough for best in the Eastern Conference and second in the league to LAFC (who has an absolutely ridiculous 36 so far).

I’ll be honest Rapids fans—I wouldn’t be expecting a result from this. Part of this is that the Union is playing very well, and we don’t do so well on the road. But, a bigger part of it is that its a mid-week game with back-to-back Saturday games bookending it. With the team coming back to play against FC Cincinnati for the first time, and at home, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us bring out a little bit more of an alternating lineup. I would try to rest some of our players, maybe bring out more of our youth and homegrown players in particular. Seeing Anderson back in the starting lineup would be pretty cool, and Bassett hasn’t had minutes in a while.

How do you think Conor Casey should or will handle his first mid-week game as head coach against a tough team?