The Colorado Rapids’ season got off to an inauspicious start last Sunday with an unceremonious 4-0 blowout loss to the Seattle Sounders, but the team can make things right by coming out swinging against Sporting KC on Saturday.
Both teams are facing significant availability concerns for the match. Star Rapids forward and former SKC player Diego Rubio was previously ruled out with a knee injury that could keep him sidelined for up to five weeks. Club captain Jack Price and speedy winger Jonathan Lewis will both remain questionable for a second-straight game due to ankle injuries. Price was questionable for the Seattle game due to a back injury.
While defender Aboubacar Keita was omitted from the team’s availability report for the first time since he joined the club ahead of the 2022 season, the club listed 2023 SuperDraft signing Moise Bombito as out with a left knee injury.
When pressed for comment, a Rapids spokesperson told Burgundy Wave that Bombito suffered the knee injury during training on Thursday, and that the club is still assessing the extent of the injury. Colorado also clarified that they will provide an update in due time.
Colorado Rapids statement on Moise Bombito, who is OUT with a knee injury ahead of Saturday's home opener against SKC:— Joseph Samelson (@jspsam) March 3, 2023
Bombito suffered an injury during training Thursday. The club is still assessing the extent of the injury and will provide an update in due time.
It’s not just the Rapids that could be without key pieces for the game. Up to six Sporting KC players may have to miss Saturday’s clash, including some of their highest earners. Mexican International Alan Pulido was upgraded from out to questionable last week after missing the entire 2022 season due to injury, but didn’t play in SKC’s loss to the Portland Timbers. It’s unlikely that the striker plays significant minutes at altitude in his first appearance back with the club after such a long layoff. Khiry Shelton, who played all 90 minutes in Sporting’s opener, was also a recent addition to the club’s injury report as questionable with an adductor injury.
Two Kansas City defenders—left back Logan Ndenbe and former Rapids homegrown Kortne Ford—aren’t going to suit up for the match, either. Ford played in both of SKC’s matches against his former club after moving one state East in 2021, but tore his ACL in a preseason scrimmage earlier this year and will likely miss most of the season.
SKC will also be missing Designated Players Gadi Kinda and Johnny Russell this week, so there’s an open question as to where the club’s goals are going to come from on Saturday—especially if Pulido remains sidelined. Like the Rapids, Sporting failed to find the back of the net at all during their first game of the year.
Their attack will likely hinge on the form of Dániel Sallói, who has historically had Colorado’s number in the final third. The Hungarian International has five goals and one assist in six career appearances against the Rapids. His game-winning brace resulted in a Sporting win during the last fixture between these two teams in Kansas City, and he saw red for his shameful cleating of Nicolás Mezquida in stoppage time.
All of my homies hate Dániel Sallóipic.twitter.com/LRiTEF6vm7— Joseph Samelson (@jspsam) March 3, 2023
Historically, Colorado has fared well in their home openers. The club has only lost four of their 27 since MLS kicked off in 1996, and they’ve never lost one against Sporting KC. Kansas City also boasts a pretty poor record in matches held in Colorado—the club has only earned four outright wins in their 40 road matches against the Rapids.
Rapids manager Robin Fraser will probably field a similar team to the one that saw the field for last Sunday’s blowout in Seattle, but supporters shouldn’t be too surprised if the gaffer switches things up on Saturday. Fraser has opted for three or five-back setups in all but one of his six matches against the Sporks as Rapids manager, and he’s never fielded a four-man back line when dueling Peter Vermes at home. Even if the shape changes up a bit, Colorado will still probably incorporate elements of positional play and counter-pressing to take advantage of altitude and keep the visitors guessing.
“They’re always good. Even when they’re not good, they’re good,” Fraser said of Vermes and Sporting KC on The Rundown. “Even last year, I didn’t think they were particularly good, but they were still a tough team to deal with. They’re very well-coached, very well-organized, and really highly motivated. They’re going to present some problems for us.”
Regardless of the formation, fans should expect a lot of the same personnel that started last week. New goalkeeper signing Marko Ilić arrived in Denver this week after receiving his P-1 visa, but it’s still unlikely that he starts over William Yarbrough after only a few days in the States. Danish Designated Player Andreas Maxsø is expected to lead the back line, and he could be joined by Lalas Abubakar, Danny Wilson, or both depending on how Fraser chooses to organize his side. Abubakar got the start in Seattle last week, but starting Wilson against SKC could make sense if the Rapids want to dominate possession and double-up on long ball-pinging defenders at the back. Gustavo Vallecilla, who just returned to Ohio to join the Columbus Crew on loan Friday morning, won’t be available for selection in defense.
There are serious questions about the team’s outside backs at the moment. Despite his struggles against the Sounders, Keegan Rosenberry is probably still written in pen on the club’s lineup card. His ability to play right fullback and outside center back offers the team some flexibility to swap between four and five at the back during the match if needed. Newcomer Alex Gersbach also had a game to forget on the opposite side during his burgundy debut last week, and could be replaced with Steven Beitashour, Braian Galván, or Anthony Markanich if Fraser wants to make adjustments on the left.
Based on his showing against the Sounders, fellow newcomer Connor Ronan should be able to take up Price’s mantle in the midfield. Ronan did well to match Price’s standard in distribution from the central pivot, and the Irishman was the Rapids’ best chance creator in the season opener. Cole Bassett and Ralph Priso joined Ronan in the midfield for that game, but it wouldn’t be too surprising if Bryan Acosta replaced Priso this time around.
Colorado’s attack will likely continue to struggle to create chances from open play without Rubio in the attack, but his absence should afford another starting opportunity for homegrown Darren Yapi. Yapi made his second consecutive MLS start thanks to Rubio’s injury last week, and the 18-year-old excited league pundits despite the beatdown he and his teammates endured.
While Fraser tapped Sam Nicholson and Michael Barrios to serve on the wings against Seattle, neither really impressed. Nicholson offers flexibility in the sense that he can play all down the right side, but he hasn’t been effective in the final third since joining the club for a second stint last summer. Kévin Cabral seems due for significant minutes soon, but the team’s biggest off-season attacking acquisition rode the bench until the 71st minute on Sunday. If Fraser really wants to switch things up, he could pick Galván as an option in the attack—it’s just not entirely clear if the young Argentine is ready for 90 minutes after missing last season with an ACL injury.
Home: Colorado Rapids (0-0-1, W-14th, L5: WLWDL)
Away: Sporting Kansas City (0-0-1, W-12th, L5: WWWLL)
Competition: Major League Soccer
Date: March 4, 2023
Time: 7:30 PM MST
Venue: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Location: Commerce City, CO
Officials: Allen Chapman (REF), Logan Brown (AR1), Kali Smith (AR2), Malik Badawi (4TH), Greg Dopka (VAR), and Fabio Tovar (AVAR).
TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV (English/Spanish).
Commentary: Nate Bukaty and Tony Meola (Apple TV-English) and Francisco X. Rivera and Diego Arrioja (Apple TV-Spanish).
Colorado Rapids: William Yarbrough, Keegan Rosenberry, Alex Gersbach, Andreas Maxsø, Danny Wilson, Connor Ronan, Ralph Priso, Cole Bassett, Kévin Cabral, Sam Nicholson, Darren Yapi.
Sporting Kansas City: John Pulskamp, Graham Zusi, Ben Sweat, Andreu Fontas, Robert Voloder, Remi Walter, Roger Espinoza, Erik Thommy, Daniel Salloi, Marinos Tzionis, Willy Agada.
Staff Score Predictions
Matt Pollard: 2-1 Colorado. The club’s fitness this preseason was boosted by spending more time at altitude. With SKC’s game at Portland getting rescheduled due to weather, the Pids have a day more of recovery. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be convincing. It’ll probably turn into Fight Club. Cabral opens his account and they get a garbage goal off a corner too.
Joseph Samelson: 1-1 draw. I wasn’t impressed with the level of play from either Sporting or the Rapids on Matchday 1, but the two teams haven’t lost two-in-a-row to open the season since 2009 and 2013, respectively. Given the forecast of freezing temperatures and injuries facing both teams, supporters may be lucky to see any goals at all.
Player Availability & Disciplinary Reports
Colorado Rapids Availability Report (as of 2023-03-02):
- SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT YELLOW—none.
- OUT—Moise Bombito (L knee), Diego Rubio (R Knee), and Dantouma Toure (R knee).
- QUESTIONABLE—Jonathan Lewis (L ankle) and Jack Price (back).
Sporting Kansas City Availability Report (as of 2023-03-02):
- SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT YELLOW—none.
- OUT—Kortne Ford (achilles), Logan Ndenbe (hamstring), Gadi Kinda (knee), and Johnny Russell (hamstring).
- QUESTIONABLE—Alan Pulido (knee) and Khiry Shelton (adductor).