After an undefeated August, the Colorado Rapids will head to California in a nationally televised match against the San Jose Earthquakes. The Rapids are 5-3-2 (W-L-D) on the road, with three wins in their last four away matches.
But the Quakes are undefeated in their last 10. They haven’t lost since June – June! Unfortunately for them, they’re still below the red line and out of a playoff spot due to their sluggish start to the campaign.
After making the playoffs in 2020, you can bet the Earthquakes have their sights set on the same goal and will see this match as a measuring stick of sorts to figure out exactly where they stack up against the best in the West. For the Rapids, that means the club has gone from being the hunter to the hunted.
Everybody is taking the Burgundy Boys seriously now. The teams above Colorado in the standings are looking over their shoulder at Colorado, and the teams below are looking up as a target to chase. It brings a different sort of pressure, but the formula remains the same: play your game, get results.
Here’s how the lads can do it in San Jose this weekend:
Next Man Up in the Midfield
The Rapids will be without two of their lynchpin midfielders, Kellyn Acosta and Mark-Anthony Kaye. Both have been called up to their respective national teams for World Cup Qualifying. In their absence, the Rapids will have Cole Basset, Nico Mezquida, Collen Warner and perhaps even Andre Shinyashiki to fill in. Nobody needs to be Acosta or Kaye; they just need to be capable next to or in front of Jack Price. This is where the Rapids quality depth goes from luxury to advantage, as it did early in the summer when Acosta was away.
Adjust to the Quakes' Adjustments
When Matías Almeyda arrived in MLS, he brought his man-marking defensive style. It had moments where it worked, seeing as they did make the playoffs last season. But by and large, it never clicked for the club. In their current 10-match unbeaten run, Almeyda has switched to a more traditional structure. Undoubtedly, part of their recent success is due to them having a roster of good players and a legendary coach, but I also wonder if part of it is other teams failing to adjust to the new tactics. We’ll see what manager Robin Fraser does to counter.
Ride the Wave
I’m a stickler when it comes to words and what they mean. I don’t believe “momentum” in sports is a real thing. Physics, yes; sports, no. There’s an old baseball adage that goes something like, “Momentum is as good as the next night’s starting pitcher.” Confidence, scheme, fitness are all metrics that I think people mean but can’t articulate when they say momentum. Right now, the Rapids confidence is high, the schemes are working and they’re healthy-ish. Add in the squad’s natural talent and you have a team in third place in the West. August didn’t go so well because the club were running on magic beans or genie wishes; no, the squad went undefeated and picked up important points because they’re that good and in form. Now, ride that form into San Jose not because there’s a supernatural wind in your sails, but because you create your own luck with confidence, scheme and fitness.