PREVIEW – The Colorado Rapids are set to open their MLS is Back group stage tomorrow. They take on Real Salt Lake in Group D of the tournament. With an organized group and effective style of play, the Pids are legitimate dark horse to win the whole thing.
Colorado Rapids MiB Preview
First some housekeeping news: With the exception of two players out with long term knee injuries, the club will have the full first team available for selection for this tournament. Head Coach Robin Fraser confirmed that during club media availability yesterday.
Colorado are the most equipped team in their group. Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United FC are without their best center backs in Nedum Onuoha and Ike Opara, respectively. SKC’s best attacker Felipe Gutierrez is out afer knee surgery.
Nonetheless, this is a really tough group. It might not be the Group of Death, but it is the most competitive group in the tournament. There’s no easy teams. SKC are probably the favorite with Alan Pulido, the best player in this group. But in this format anything could happen. Any of these four teams winning the group or finishing last is a plausible outcome.
With that in mind, where doe the Rapids have an advantage and what do they need to do to get to the knockout stage?
Fraser has built a solid foundation thas has proven effective in this format. The Rapids defend first, counter effectively, and are elite on set pieces. Other than central midfield, they’re two deep with quality at every position. If they stay disciplined and execute on restarts and when they have quality opportunities, they will be a tough out.
The first test is tomorrow’s game against RSL. The Rocky Mountain Cup has not been kind to the Rapids but this game may be more about mentality and the weight of precident than anything. They need to get a win for the standings and their confidence.
Against both RSL and Minnesota, they will have a great opportunity offensively. Younes Namli and whomever starts at forward (Kei Kamara or possibly Diego Rubio) will be key with the opponent missing a key central defender. with Kansas City having no distinct weaknesses to exploit, the Rapids must get results in their other two games.
This is a tough but fair group. It’s also a group one would expect an MLS Cup Playoff team in the Western Conference to advance out of.