EDITORIAL – Sporting KC and Colorado Rapids play on Friday in game two of their MLS is Back Group D schedule. Both sides lost their first game of the group stage on Sunday. Both had issues in that game that need to be rectified tomorrow night.
Sporting KC and Colorado Rapids Faceoff in Elimination Game
SKC were riding high in the 73rd minute against Minnesota United FC. They were up 1-0, in control of the game, and Alan Pulido was balling out. Then Tim Melia got a red card for DOGSO and Sporting collapsed in stoppage time and lost 2-1. Richard Sanchez subbed in and will likely start against Colorado.
The Rapids had their worst performance in over a calendar year. They started flat against RSL and were poor in every facet of the game, losing 2-0. The team got torn apart up the middle defensively, an area that was previously one of their greatest strength. Captain Jack Price and the center backs must clean things up if they want a chance at containing Pulido.
Jonathan Lewis called the game a “wake up call;” Manager Robin Fraser said the message for Friday to the team is to “show who they are.”
How they can still advance:
Both teams will have to show up given the state of the group. The other match is between the winners, RSL and Minnesota. Someone is getting a result in that game. If Sporting KC or Colorado Rapids lose tomorrow, they’ll be in last in the group and it will be impossible for them to win the group. At best, they can be in a three-way tie for second on points with three (they’ll need some help in the other fixture though).
The loser of this game will need to win their third game and will need lots of help elsewhere to be one of the best third place teams to make the knockout stage. In that, the game tomorrow is essentially an elimination game. Both teams need a win. Both teams have something to work on to make that happen.
What needs to be done:
SKC Head Coach Peter Vermes might need to adjust player roles and focus to protect Sanchez. Offensively, they’ll probably look the same: Get the ball to Pulido and have him create. If they can just keep things tidy at the back and not have Sanchez have to make a spectacular save, they’ll be ok. Easier said than done if the Rapids progress to their mean in chance creation and set pieces.
For Colorado, they have to find and re-establish who they were before the pandemic and in the second half of last year. They got torn apart by Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach in Zone 14. If they play the same way, Pulido will have a field day. They need their defensive foundation back. The passing and off-ball movement just needs to sharpen for them to be able to score.
Neither of these is simple. Both are necessary because Sporting KC and Colorado Rapids have what amounts to an elimination group stage game tomorrow.