Ahead of Saturday's Western Conference clash at Colorado, SportingKC.com caught up with Rapids' broadcaster Richard Fleming to preview #COLvSKC. Live coverage of Saturday's match (7 p.m. CT) is available on FOX Sports KC, FOX Sports GO, 99.3 FM, and La Grande 1340 AM. Check out MatchDay Central for complete online coverage.
What did you take away from the earlier meeting between the two sides and any impact it might have on Saturday’s match?
It was a game of chances. Sporting took theirs, and the Rapids didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Sporting were the more dominant, but Dominique Badji had a header from close range wonderfully saved by Tim Melia, before Micheal Azira was inches away from converting a Marlon Hairston cross. Two chances, both within minutes of each other, and moments before the break. Had they gone in, or even one of them, then who knows? Fact is, Sporting were more clinical on the day and deserved the win. As far as what impact it may have on Saturday’s match, I think – irrespective of the opponent – this is a Rapids side starting a run of four games in a row, and it is at home where they need to start putting points on the board.
What is the Rapids’ form heading into Saturday’s match?
Stats don’t lie. We can all look back on games (laughs), as I have done in my previous response, and consider where turning points may have come, but the Rapids are where they are because results – and with it performances – have not been good enough. They go into the game off the back of successive road defeats, at Chicago and Philadelphia. In Chicago they were outplayed and out-fought. Pablo (Mastroeni) switched things up quite considerably for the trip to Philly, making seven changes, and the result was a bit more bite and a bit more battle. Confidence has been dented, but they’re expecting a full house for Saturday, and the players know they have to grasp this run of home games as an opportunity to climb the standings.
What players have stepped into the lineup for Marc Burch and Sam Cronin (sent to Minnesota via trade)?
Burch’s place has been flipped between Mekeil Williams and Eric Miller. Neither have the ability to deliver service into the box like Burch, and there’s no doubt that side of his game has been missed. Mohammed Saeid has stepped in, albeit a little further up the field, and has provided a bit of quality down the flanks. As for Cronin’s ‘replacement’, that spot was due to be Nana Boateng’s, but he suffered fractures to his lower back in mid-April, and is not expected back until after the World Cup break.
What’s been the reasons for the Rapids’ inconsistent play this season?
Numerous and varied reasons. Injuries, players-in/players-out, suspensions, and the team’s attempt to be more aggressive offensively. Losing Axel Sjöberg after the second game - with him only returning in game 11 - was a blow, as was the departure of Burch and Cronin – as it meant re-shuffling – as was the loss to suspension of Tim Howard and Jared Watts, plus the struggle due to injury and illness of Shkëlzen Gashi, all while looking to be more positive going forward. This was a very solid side defensively in 2016, but they recognized that the lack of goals was ultimately an issue. In trying to ‘resolve’ that, they’re going through a spell of transition, I believe, not helped with having to shuffle the starting lineup. In 11 games they’ve used 10 different starting lineups.
Who are a few Colorado players to watch for Saturday’s match?
Gashi scored twice in the last home game, a 3-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes. He was on the bench in Philly, so will want to entertain a full house. Joshua Gatt got his first MLS start at Talen Energy Stadium. If he keeps his place, expect him to be full of running and energy. And, with Caleb Calvert suspended, look to either veteran Alan Gordon or the speed of Dominique Badji to link-up with Irish international Kevin Doyle.
What are your overall thoughts on Saturday’s match and what do you expect to see?
Forget Rapids/RSL, in my humble opinion, I think there’s a greater rivalry brewing between these two teams. I think we’ll see bags of commitment from both sides. I’m not sure it’ll be the prettiest of soccer matches, but it will be a battle. The weather forecast is for storms. I think that’s rather apt. Two sides, with a lot of history and a little baggage, plus we know the fantastic Sporting KC fans traveling will make themselves heard. There’s pressure when you’re at the top, and there’s obviously pressure for those struggling at the bottom. Two teams with plenty of reasons to give it everything, and I’m looking forward to it.