The Rapids are back in action this weekend against FC Cincinnati after a three-week break. The Rapids will head east for the first of only three games against Eastern Conference teams in 2021.
FC Cincinnati are partway through their third MLS campaign, but this is their first year calling their state-of-the-art soccer specific stadium home. Saturday’s matchup will mark the first time the Rapids have played in Cincinnati and also their first visit to the new TQL Stadium.
While FCC may be at the bottom of the Supporters’ Shield standings, the new venue at full capacity could give them that extra energy that turns losses into draws and draws into victories. On top of that, we do have a recent history of clubs entering MLS and struggling to start before finding their way. Minnesota is the best example of this. Their recent rise in MLS also coincided with a new soccer specific stadium and came after a historically tough start to life in the league.
Without further ado, here are three keys to the first of two matches in June for the Burgundy Boys.
Keep a Clean Sheet
The Rapids have posted three clean sheets so far in 2021, and Cincinnati has struggled to score since entering MLS in 2019. Despite some high-profile offseason additions, including Brazilian star Brenner and Argentine playmaker Luciano Acosta, the Blue and Orange have only managed six goals this season. Keeping them off the board is the surest way to a positive result.
Get the Ball Out Wide
Already this season, both regular starting fullbacks for Colorado have scored. After the match against FC Dallas a few weekends ago, Keegan Rosenberry discussed how he needs to continue to do more when it comes to advancing the ball and getting into attacking positions. Combine that with the progressive attacking evolution of Sam Vines, and the Rapids have one of the best duos of all-around fullbacks. We know they can defend as well as any in the league, but now we’re seeing them make plays that lead to goals. Let’s keep it up.
The Rapids have found success in 2021 when intelligently choosing when to press teams. For Cincinnati, despite being porous defensively, they are averaging 46% possession of the ball per match. Colorado is averaging 48%. But where FCC struggles is progressing the ball into dangerous areas.
Per Opta, Cincinnati is last in MLS in successful passes in an opponents’ half with 761, compared with Colorado at 1,123. It gets worse when you look at touches in the opponents box; Cincinnati is second from bottom in MLS with only 99, while the Rapids have 163 and the league average is approximately 161. Those are big gaps for FCC.
Based on that data, it appears that, despite having a reasonable amount of possession, they struggle to move forward through their opposing half and into the final third. Colorado, being discerning about when to press, can wait for FCC to get bogged down and then turn up the heat. Turn them over, create a counter attack and put the ball away. Possession percentage won’t dictate this match; it will be how each side makes their possessions count.