The Colorado Rapids hit the road again for a match in Portland against a Western Conference side that’s becoming a bit of a rival for the Rapids. However, midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye is one who historically seems to play pretty well against the Timbers. The Canadian international has scored more times against Portland than any other side in MLS, four of his 13 total goals thus far.
“In general, I give them credit for how they run their club and how successful they are, but they’re always going to compete very hard, and they’re a very opportunistic team in transition,” Mark-Anthony told Burgundy Wave this week. “We’ve had some big games, and I’m not surprised there’s a bit of a rivalry. The next game is an important one.”
After a gritty performance last week earning a point in New York, Colorado is looking to build some momentum on the road after the long break in MLS competition and some challenging games away from altitude this season.
Even though Kaye was getting work in away on international duty with Canada over the three weeks “off,” he noted the rest of the Rapids used that time to take a step back and look at some things that usually the hectic game week doesn’t allow for.
“It’s fine-tuning certain things whenever you have a break like that without games. You can focus on the details of either building out of the back, how we want to defend, because we have more time to do it, so not rushed because you have to manage load leading up into a game.”
“It gives the coaches the opportunity to plan a little bit easier and focus a bit longer on certain things. There’s more time overall, which means there’s more time to individual work, group work, set pieces…….”
Unfortunately, for Mark-Anthony and his teammates, they will have to go to battle with a bit of a depleted roster due to suspensions (Bryan Acosta and Lalas Abubukar), an injury last week to Jack Price making him questionable for this weekend’s match, but also benefit from the return of Diego Rubio up top.
“Whenever you end up missing some players that have consistently playing for a while and have found form, it heightens the responsibility of everyone else,” Kaye explains on how the missing pieces affect the squad.
With players such as Collen Warner and Steven Beitashour likely to step in, Kaye is confident in everyone making the most of their role in Portland. “There are qualities guys bring to the field, and we make sure that we take care of what we can control, then we put the team in the best position to win.”
“We’re capable of picking up where they left off to make sure there’s no big dip. Everyone understands the system and guys have been itching to get opportunities, and sometimes they come through suspensions or injuries, so guys will be motivated to play well.”
“You don’t just want to depend on 11 guys. You want 25 guys, so when anyone steps on the field, there’s no drop-in understanding the game plan. The only way to be engaged is to be clear in your role. You’ve got to do your job first, then hope your teammate will do their job.”
While Kaye is clear about his focus on that job in Colorado, another one down the road is with Canada and hopefully the World Cup in November. It’s also something he has to push to the back of his mind, but also do the work to put him in the best possible position to represent his country. “I’m clear-minded on what I need to get out of these next five months here in Colorado, then leading into the National Team and World Cup. Physically I feel strong. I’m in a good spot right now, back into that weekly routine.”
“The big thing is to be on the team and play meaningful minutes at the World Cup in November, but to have that be achievable, I need to be training and playing well here in Colorado. It all intertwines, and if November is my end goal, then that means giving it my all when I’m here - that’s where I am, that’s where my resources are, and my training and my game minutes.”
Kaye also reassures Rapids fans that even though there are a lot of matches left to be played, they are solid in their belief and work ethic internally to get the job done come playoff time. “We see so many times in previous seasons that teams to that do well find their stride later in the season. That’s not an excuse, but we want to ensure that we're ready to go when the games have a lot on the line. We’re working towards that.”
“You can go on a run of great form, win five games in a row and be at the top of the league or you can lose a couple and be at the bottom. As long as you try to deal with the game right in front of you, you put yourself in the best position to ensure you’re maximizing the opportunity right in front of you to pick up points.”