Know Thy Enemy: Exploiting space in wide areas, staying sharp defensively key factors as 'Caps face Colorado Rapids


VANCOUVER, BC – After a bye last weekend, Vancouver Whitecaps FC return to MLS action as they face fellow Western Conference side Colorado Rapids this Saturday, April 29 in the first of two consecutive home matches at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.

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In their previous match before the bye week, the 'Caps claimed a 0-0 road draw against Austin FC on April 1, securing their third consecutive point away from home and extending their MLS unbeaten run to six matches. The team will look to continue their fine form on Saturday at BC Place, where they've claimed back-to-back wins and haven't conceded a goal in their last 265 minutes of play.

Meanwhile, Colorado were in mid-week U.S. Open Cup action on Wednesday, progressing to the next round by beating North Colorado Hailstorm FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park by a score of 3-1. In MLS play, the side is currently riding an unbeaten streak of their own with four draws and a win in their last five matches.

To get you set for Saturday's clash, we look at Colorado's players to watch, fixture history, exploiting space in wide areas, and staying sharp defensively.


Saturday's match will mark the 28th MLS meeting between the two sides, and the first of two encounters this season.

The Rapids claimed a 3-1 victory in the previous meeting last September at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

HIGHLIGHTS: Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | September 10, 2022

In the previous meeting at BC Place last August, the 'Caps recorded a 2-1 win thanks to a brace from Ryan Gauld.

HIGHLIGHTS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Colorado Rapids | August 17, 2022


The Rapids have struggled to find the back of the net through their first nine matches of the MLS regular season, recording only six goals despite tallying the sixth most expected goals in the league with 13.7.

Part of that has come from the amount of injuries they had at the start of the year, but little by little, head coach Robin Fraser has been able to put together his ideal first-choice starting lineup.

Three key pieces of Fraser's puzzle have been attacking midfielder Max Alves (known as Max), winger Michael Barrios, and midfielder Connor Ronan.

Max arrived in Colorado prior to the start of 2022 but found it difficult to acclimatize to MLS in his debut season. So far this season, the Brazilian has started six of his nine appearances across all competitions and recorded two goals, including a strike from outside the box in against North Colorado Hailstorm FC on Wednesday.

The attacking midfielder's main goal throughout each match is to be creative in the final third to help create goalscoring opportunities for his side, whether that be running on the dribble to open up passing lanes or playing line-breaking passes to his fellow attackers to have shots at goal.

Meanwhile, Barrios has come up big for Fraser's team in the last couple weeks, scoring back-to-back last minute equalizers against Charlotte FC and St. Louis CITY SC to secure Colorado a pair of draws. 

The winger has traditionally been more of a creator during his nine years in MLS, recording 61 assists in 255 appearances, but offers as dangerous of a threat when looking score himself.

Barrios didn't start in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday and given his form in the Rapids' last two MLS matches, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Fraser name him to his starting lineup.

Lastly on our list of players to watch is one of the newest players of the burgundy and blue in Ronan.

The former Wolves midfielder has added a different dynamic to Colorado's midfield with his composure in possession to become a real conductor in the middle of the park.

Through his first nine matches in MLS, Ronan has tallied the highest passing percentage on the Rapids with 85.7% and the second most key passes on the team with 13, showing how instrumental he is in helping build up the play in midfield.

The 'Caps will have to keep their eyes peeled on Ronan, as well as Max and Barrios, to prevent Colorado from gaining any rhythm during the match, if they are to extend their six-match unbeaten streak on Saturday.


A key factor for Saturday's match will be taking advantage of space in wide areas, something the Rapids have struggled to deal with in the early part of the season. 

In total, Colorado has conceded six goals following crosses from wide areas into their box, including this one below in their match against St. Louis CITY SC last weekend (timestamp 3:29).

St. Louis is able to take advantage of the space out wide left unoccupied by Rapids fullback Keegan Rosenberry, which results in a cross being delivered to the back post for winger Rasmus Alm to finish past goalkeeper William Yarborough.

You can tell with the goal it's also been a problem for the Rapids to deal with runs at the back stick, something the 'Caps love to do with their central midfielders and opposing attacking midfielder making deep runs into the box to get on the end of crosses.

If the Blue and White can overload Colorado's wide areas, while also taking advantage of the space out wide in transition, they'll be able to muster up plenty of chance against the Rapids.


Heading into Matchday 10, the 'Caps have kept three consecutive clean sheets and haven't allowed a goal in the last 320 minutes of MLS play, marking the fourth longest shutout streak in the league this season.

The team also hasn't allowed a goal at BC Place in the last 265 minutes of MLS play.

Meanwhile, Colorado have been shutout four times and have the second-lowest amount of goals so far in the Western Conference with six this season.

Make sure to catch the 'Caps face Colorado Rapids this Saturday, April 29 at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT. Tickets to the match are still available at Can't make it to the match? Catch all the action live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV and AM730 (radio), with the radio pre-game show starting at 6:30 p.m. PT.

MLS Season Pass
The 2023 season will see the debut of MLS Season Pass, the unprecedented subscription service from Apple and MLS that will have every match of the regular season, Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, and Leagues Cup – all in one place and with no blackouts. As an exclusive benefit, Whitecaps FC 2023 Season Members will receive a subscription to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, as well as significant savings over single match tickets.