For the third and final time in the 2021 regular season, the Colorado Rapids will clash with their I-70 rivals, Sporting Kansas City. The first two matchups were big because every match is worth three points whether it’s in April or November, but this third duel is seismic.
If Colorado wins at Children’s Mercy Park, it will be the fourth consecutive victory on the road and it will vault the visiting Rapids over Sporting KC in the table from third to second. After spending what felt like an eternity in fourth place, the Rapids could leapfrog two teams in back-to-back weeks after clambering over the Galaxy last week.
But should SKC pull out a victory, they’ll expand the gap between second and third to five points (although the Rapids will still have two games in hand), and they could rise to first in the Western Conference depending on the result of Seattle’s match against Portland.
All three points would give Colorado 40 points in 20 games which, if you’re not a mathematician, is 2.00 points per game. A full season at that clip projects out to 68 over a 34-game season. LAFC’s record-setting 2019 side (which had on the roster current Rapids Mark-Anthony Kaye and Steve Beitashour) tallied 72 points. Of course, you can’t count points before you play the games, but this Colorado side is special, and the points don’t lie.
The Rapids can get three points and here’s how.
Win the Midfield
I wrote this the last time these two sides played but the Rapids will have a massive advantage in the midfield. SKC midfielder Rémi Walter saw a red card in the first half in Minnesota and will be out for this match. Gianluca Busio transferred to Venezia in Serie A. Ilie Sánchez is the other defensive midfielder on the roster whom Peter Vermes trusts, so it would make sense to see him slot in, but he’s played a lot of center back this year when Nicolas Isimat-Mirin has been out. And Isimat-Mirin hasn’t played since being subbed off due to injury when SKC came to DSGP a couple weeks ago. We could see Roberto Punčec opposite Andreu Fontàs, which would allow Ilie to play as the holding mid. Regardless of the configuration, the Rapids will have the advantage in the midfield and can win the game from there.
Alan Pulido and Dániel Sallói
The attacking duo has combined for 20 goals and seven assists in 2,766 minutes played. About every 100 minutes, one of them is directly involved in a goal. Sallói is leading the way with 12 goals and 0.66 goals per 90 minutes. While Pulido only has eight goals, he’s done it on significantly fewer minutes and is averaging 0.63 goals per 90. Both are top 15 in the league in goals per 90. The Rapids can do everything right and put themselves in position to win and still be undone by moments of individual brilliance by these two. Know where they are, lock them down, win the game on the other end.
Beat the 'Keeper
Nobody has more clean sheets in 2021 than Rapids net-minder William Yarbrough with eight, and nobody has more clean sheets since 2015 than SKC goalkeeper Tim Melia with 57. Given the attacking prowess of both sides, this game could well come down to which ‘keeper is able to do enough to keep the ball out of his net. They may not need to make every save to preserve a win, but I can guarantee both will be called upon to do something special and make a save in a crucial moment. The Rapids have the finishers capable of beating Melia, they just need to take and bury their chances when the time comes.