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Diego Rubio Out, Jack Price Questionable for Colorado’s Season Opener Against Seattle

Snow is also in the forecast for the Rapids’ trip to the Pacific Northwest

SOCCER: JUL 04 MLS - Seattle Sounders FC at Colorado Rapids
COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 04: Rapids Forward Diego Rubio (11) is helped off the pitch by Sounders Defender Shane O’Neill (27) during a Major League Soccer match between Seattle Sounders FC and Colorado Rapids on July 4,2021 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.
Photo by Kamp Fender/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Colorado Rapids’ season will officially kick off on Sunday against the Seattle Sounders, but the club may need to make do with a few of their most important players for the match.

According to a late update to the club’s injury report on Saturday night, star forward Diego Rubio will miss the match with a right knee injury. A club spokesperson confirmed with Burgundy Wave that Rubio’s injury is not related to his ACL or MCL, and that the club will update in the coming days.

The Chilean striker’s absence will be a big loss to the Rapids, who relied heavily on Rubio for goals and assists during the 2022 season. Rubio tied the club’s single-season goal scoring record of 16 last year, and broke the team record for total goal contributions in a season.

Rubio isn’t the only Rapid who’ll miss the match. New goalkeeper signing Marko Ilić was also given an “out” designation on the report, but due to procedural concerns rather than injury. The Serbian shot-stopper has yet to receive his P-1 visa, and will not arrive to the U.S. in time for the game.

Colorado’s availability report also listed Captain Jack Price as questionable with a back injury. Price featured for the Rapids in the club’s 2-2 draw against Orlando City SC, but didn’t feature in scrimmages against Miami FC and the Philadelphia Union. Forward Jonathan Lewis didn’t participate in any of the Rapids’ six preseason games, and is questionable with a left ankle injury.

Rubio’s absence opens the door for homegrown Darren Yapi to make his second-straight start with the club. Yapi is the only other natural center forward on Colorado’s roster, and made his first-ever MLS start on Decision Day against Austin FC last season. The youngster scored three goals during the Rapids’ three scrimmages in Mexico during preseason, and Fraser previously indicated that the young forward was set for more MLS minutes in 2023.

While William Yarbrough should be set to start in goal instead of Ilić, potential absences from Price and Lewis could complicate Robin Fraser’s lineup selection on Sunday. Colorado has historically been careful regarding injuries to key starters—players listed as questionable tend to not start games. Sunday’s weather report also calls for snow, so it’s likely the Rapids won’t risk any key players dealing with injuries. Interestingly, neither Rubio nor Price played during Colorado’s last preseason friendly in Orlando.

Bryan Acosta filled in for Price during much of the 2022 season, so the Honduran International is a safe bet to start if Price can’t go on Sunday. Canadian Youth International Ralph Priso, who joined the Rapids during last summer as part of the deal that sent Mark-Anthony Kaye to Toronto FC, could be a dark horse candidate for minutes.

Whichever central pivot Fraser picks will likely be joined by homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett and newcomer Connor Ronan in the midfield. Bassett’s a known quantity for Fraser, and Ronan received consistent game time during preseason.

Colorado’s personnel in defense and attack will depend on whether Fraser opts for a five or four-man back line. The club’s preseason scrimmages were all held behind closed doors, and the team’s formation wasn’t clear from the personnel that reportedly participated in the match.

Danish Designated Player Andreas Maxsø is probably a lock to debut at center back regardless of the rest of the back line, but his partners could change depending on the team’s shape. Lalas Abubakar and Danny Wilson are easy picks, but Fraser has shown a recent tendency to play Keegan Rosenberry as an outside center back in a defensive trio. It’s possible that the manager opts for a flexible group of Abubakar, Maxsø, and Rosenberry as center backs—Maxsø and Wilson are similar defensive archetypes, so starting both could be redundant. Such a setup would allow Fraser to start Sam Nicholson at right wing back—something he was keen on during the final stretch of 2022. The Scot’s flexibility on the right would still allow him to move into the attack if needed.

New defensive signing Alex Gersbach seems to be the most-likely choice at left back, but it’s worth highlighting that the Australian International joined after fellow newcomers Ronan and Maxsø. Gersbach played fewer preseason minutes as a result, so it’s possible Fraser opts for the reliable Steven Beitashour or the recovered-and-rearing Braian Galván to the position. Galván featured semi-regularly at left wing back after Colorado sold homegrown defender Sam Vines to Royal Antwerp in 2021, and the Argentine could very well prove to be a better version of Lucas Esteves at the position.

Designated Player Kévin Cabral seems set to make his competitive debut for the Rapids. The French winger was the team’s first big off-season splash and could theoretically play any spot on the front line. A three-man midfield with a five-man back line would mean two up-front—a tactic Fraser has used in defensive games before. Yapi is probably the move for Fraser to pair with Cabral in that situation, as Calvin Harris and Michael Barrios didn’t make a huge splash in preseason.

Colorado’s lineup against the Union in their last warm-up game could have been a 5-3-2, 3-5-2, 4-3-3, or all three. Fraser has historically favored flexible setups like this on the road. The ability to adjust on-the-fly to respond to rapidly changing conditions and game states could make all the difference on Sunday.

The somewhat-good news for the Rapids is that the Sounders will also be dealing with injuries for the game. Seattle’s report officially listed Alaska native Obed Vargas as out with a quad strain and star forward Raúl Ruidíaz as questionable, but Rave Green TV reported late on Saturday that Ruidíaz would be unavailable for the game.

Brazilian forward Héber should slot in if Ruidíaz can’t go, and the Sounders’ lineup should mostly write itself from there. The Washington-based club’s star-studded starters should still include recognizable names to Rapids fans like U.S. Internationals Cristian Roldán and Jordan Morris, along with ex-Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnák. Rusnák has recorded 11 goal contributions in 16 league games against Colorado, and fellow Seattle midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has recorded 10 in 10 in all competitions against the Burgundy Boys.

While the Sounders are winless in their last five competitive games (including an early exit to Egypt’s Al-Ahly in the Club World Cup), the club has still earned points in their last four at home. That run extends to their series against the Rapids, as the Rave Green have won 15 of 18 total home matches against Colorado. According to a release from MLS Communications, that home winning percentage of 83% is the highest among league fixtures played at least 10 times.

Match Information

Home: Seattle Sounders FC (0-0-0, W-1st, L5: LDLDL)
Away: Colorado Rapids (0-0-0, W-1st, L5: WWLWD)

Competition: Major League Soccer
Date: February 26, 2022
Time: 6:00 PM MST
Venue: Lumen Field
Location: Seattle, WA
Officials: Alex Chilowicz (REF), Ian Anderson (AR1), Chris Elliot (AR2), Fotis Bazakos (4TH), Edvin Jurisevic (VAR), Tom Supple (AVAR).

TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), Apple TV Free (English/Spanish).
Commentary: Nate Bukaty and Tony Meola (Fox Sports 1); Mark Rogondino and Heath Pearce (Apple TV-English); and Pablo Ramirez and Carlos Ruiz (Apple TV-Spanish).

Projected Lineups

Seattle Sounders FC: Stefan Frei, Jackson Ragen, Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Nouhou Tolo, Alex Roldán, Cristian Roldán, João Paulo, Albert Rusnák, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, Héber.

Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough, Andreas Maxsø, Lalas Abubakar, Keegan Rosenberry, Alex Gersbach, Sam Nicholson, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett, Connor Ronan, Kévin Cabral, Darren Yapi.

Staff Score Prediction

Joseph Samelson: 1-0 Seattle. The weather’s going to make this one a slog, and the Rapids lack the firepower to pile on the goals with Rubio sidelined. I expect the Sounders to largely dominate the run of play despite the low scoreline, and I would be surprised to see Colorado take any points home from this one.

Player Availability & Disciplinary Reports

Seattle Sounders FC (as of 2023-02-23):

  • SUSPENDED—none.
  • OUT—Obed Vargas (Right Quad Strain).
  • QUESTIONABLE—Raúl Ruidíaz (Right Hamstring Strain).

Colorado Rapids Availability Report (as of 2023-02-25)

  • SUSPENDED—none.
  • OUT—Marko Ilić (P-1 Visa), Diego Rubio (R knee), and Dantouma “Yaya” Toure (ACL).
  • QUESTIONABLE—Aboubacar Keita (R knee), Jonathan Lewis (L ankle), and Jack Price (Back).