The matches are coming thick and fast, and every week is seemingly a double game week. This can be a disadvantage when you want to savor a cathartic and emotional victory over your rival, but it’s a blessing when you need to get a bad taste out of your mouth from a loss, and get back on the pitch.
For the Rapids, the good and bad of a quick turnaround have both made an appearance this week. A 5-0 win at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah will never be forgotten, but a 4-1 in Frisco, TX can’t be washed away soon enough.
Enter the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Burgundy Boys are off to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California for another Western Conference clash. In 2019, the site was home to the Rapids’ first win of the season, which kickstarted a revival to bring the Rapids back into contention of a playoff spot - and nearly led to the squad clawing their way into the postseason.
The 2020 season is different, but the goal is the same: 3 points and fighting for a playoff spot. Here are my keys to the game.
1. Pester Cristian Pavón.
The Argentinian forward has been the star of the show for the Galaxy. Javier “Chicharito” Hernández was the Galaxy’s massive offseason addition but has been sidelined most of the year due to injuries. In his absence, Pavón has stepped up and leads the team in goals (6), assists (4) and shots (35). Playing mainly on the left wing, the Rapids’ defense will have their hands full trying to neutralize him, but, if they can, it bodes well for the final result. The Galaxy have only won once and picked up just 4 total points in matches where Pavón doesn’t record a goal or an assist.
2. Continue feeding Namli.
There may be nobody more dangerous in MLS than Younes Namli, as evidenced by his league-leading 40 successful dribbles. He can score, and he can setup scoring chances for others; he just needs the ball at his feet. But even off the ball, the Rapids may find attacking success just by having Namli on the field. As the league becomes aware of the Danish attacker, teams are being forced to commit more defensive resources to covering him. This will create an imbalance and possibly open up the left side of the pitch, where we’ve already seen players like Jonathan Lewis and Nicolas Benezet thrive.
3. Forget the past.
There are very few perfect teams in sports history. It’s universally accepted that if you want to get where you’re going, there are going to be some frustrating days, with shrugged shoulders and shaking heads. It happens. What happens next is the important part; forget about it and don’t let the result snowball. This Rapids team has no shortage of leadership and I expect those who are most vocal in the locker room to make sure the team is right come Saturday in LA.