After finishing off a four-game homestand, Vancouver Whitecaps FC are set to hit the road to face Western Conference side Colorado Rapids this Sunday, September 19 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, Colorado. You can catch the match live at 6 p.m. PT on TSN1 and AM730, with the radio pre-game show starting at 5 p.m. PT.
This will be the second meeting between the two sides this season, with the Rapids claiming a narrow 1-0 win over the ‘Caps earlier in the year.
The Rapids come into the match having played a mid-week game against Portland Timbers, drawing 2-2 to extend their unbeaten run to nine games.
To get you set for this weekend’s match-up, we break down the key game changers for the Rapids throughout the season and their new-look system.
ONES TO WATCH
With only four losses on the board all season, Colorado Rapids have surged to third place in the Western Conference thanks to their combination of defensive prowess and direct, counter-attacking football.
Their impressive roster building has also played a big factor in their remarkable campaign, as they’ve acquired plenty of talent from inside the league over the past couple years.
Leading the way has been former FC Dallas winger Michael Barrios, who leads the team in goals with seven and is tied for second on the team in assists with four.
The nifty Colombian has been a huge part of the Rapids’ offence, whether it be taking players on in 1v1 situations, providing pin-point service into the box or even creating chaos in the box with his tricky dribbling abilities.
Barrios has been deployed as winger on either side but has also played up top for the Rapids this season.
No matter where the diminutive attacker starts, expect him to have a big influence on creating chances in the final third.
At the back, former Philadelphia Union defenders Auston Trusty and Keegan Rosenberry have become rocks at the back for the Rapids.
The pair sit in the league’s top 20 in interceptions with 40 and 39 respectively and have also combined for 38 tackles.
More players acquired with previous MLS experience to watch out for include Jonathan Lewis (NYCFC), Diego Rubio (Sporting KC), Lalas Abubakar (Columbus Crew) and Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), who’ve all made big contributions to the Rapids’ success this season.
Meanwhile, midfielder Jack Price has continued to rack up assists for the Rapids, leading the side with eight this season and helping transition possession forward into the final third.
Up top, 2019 SuperDraft selection Andre Shinyashiki has also looked dangerous for the Rapids with four goals and two assists so far this season.
CHANGE IN SYSTEM
During the early part of the season, Rapids head coach Robin Fraser mainly set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation to hit teams at pace on the counter while pushing their fullbacks high up the field to whip balls into the box.
However, with the summer departure of fullback Samuel Vines to Belgian side Royal Antwerp and a long-term injury for DP playmaker Younes Namli, Fraser has switched his side into a dynamic 3-4-2-1 formation.
The change in system has paid off massively, as the Rapids have deployed the formation in each match of their nine-game unbeaten streak.
The 3-4-2-1 system has allowed Colorado to keep the same counter-attacking mentality they had with the 4-2-3-1 formation, but also maintain a safer defensive shape.
Expect Colorado to stay calm in defence and then look to hit on the counter with precise, threaded balls into their attackers, instead of maintaining possession throughout the match.
In their nine-game unbeaten streak, the Rapids have only won the possession battle twice.
MAKING HIS MARK
During MLS’ Secondary Transfer Window, Colorado splashed out the cash to acquire Canadian international and former LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye to help bolster their attacking creativity from midfield.
Kaye, who’s made six appearances for the Rapids so far, previously recorded nine goals as well as 18 assists in 77 appearances for LAFC during three and a half seasons.
In Colorado, the Canadian has been given the freedom to express his creativity in Fraser’s 3-4-2-1 formation, whether it be playing as one of the two midfielders in the centre of the park or one of the two attacking midfielders in behind the striker.
Kaye provides a dangerous array of passing that allows him to thread balls into tight spaces to catch opposing defences off guard, while also adding a dangerous aerial threat off corner kicks and set pieces.
The ‘Caps will need to be warry as the Canadian international has had a big influence in the final third for Colorado.
Reminder that kickoff goes at 6 p.m. PT this Sunday, September 19 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. You can catch the match live on TSN1 and AM730, with the radio pre-game show starting at 5 p.m. PT.