Eugene Rupinski, Brotherly Game) The Colorado Rapids have gone from a team that was a Western Conference Finalist to one that's the worst in MLS in the span of just a few months. What happened?
Abbie Mood, Burgundy Wave) Ah, the big question. To start off, the Rapids have always had a lackluster offense, and the FO wasn't able to bring anyone in during the offseason window. They did pick up Bismarck "Nana" Adjei-Boateng to help out the offense, but he broke his back after his second start, so we're still waiting to see how that acquisition will work out.
Our defensive anchor, centerback Axel Sjoberg, got an injury in the second game of the season and had to have surgery. He was on the bench Wednesday, so we may see him start against Philadelphia. We have really been missing him on defense, and although we have a decent defensive bench, Sjoberg's absence has been pretty obvious.
There have also been suspensions (Tim Howard, Jared Watts, Mekeil Williams, Kort Ford), which have mixed up our defense a bit and required Pablo to mess around with the lineup back there. Consistency is so important for that backline, and we just haven't have it.
The Rapids are also moving towards a younger, offensive-minded team, so they sent our captain midfielder Sam Cronin and our starting left fullback Marc Burch to Minnesota United back in March. I understand the trade from the FOs perspective, but losing your captain unexpectedly has an impact on the team for sure. We did get Josh Gatt, who has a ton of potential, and Mo Saeid, who has been starting and doing a great job, and some money. The plan is that the Rapids will be signing an offensive player this summer, but many fans are concerned that it might be too late to turn the season around by then.
tBG) Looking ahead to the summer it's clear that the Rapids need help. What is the most pressing need for the Rapids.
BW) I think we need a #10. We need someone who can be creative and distribute the ball. Mo Saeid has been playing that role for us, but when he gets shut down (as he did against Chicago on Wednesday), it all kind of falls apart.
Other fans feel like we need a true #9 to get in there and score some goals from up top. I believe that we already have guys who can theoretically score goals (Kevin Doyle, Dominique Badji, Shkelzen Gashi), we just need better service and more goal-scoring opportunities.
The bottom line is that the Rapids need someone who can either create chances for goals or score some goals.
tBG) Ex-Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath is still with the Rapids. How's he been doing, and what (if anything) do you see as his long-term future with the club?
BW) Zac MacMath has been a great addition to the team. Before Howard came in last year he was statistically the best keeper in MLS. (Which is why some say we didn't need another goalkeeper, but that's a different story.)
This season, Howard missed a couple games because he was still healing from an injury, and then he was suspended for three games. MacMath stepped in again and did a solid job. It's great to have a world-class keeper and a starter-caliber back up. I don't think that's fair to MacMath (and actually wanted to get traded last year), but I'm glad we have him.
As far as long-term, I've been wondering about that myself. The most logical guess is that the Rapids are holding on to him as a backup until Timmy retires in a couple years. MacMath will be 27-ish at that point, and hopefully continues to get better. I'd like to see him stick around, but I do think he deserves to be on a team where he can be a starter.
Injuries, suspensions, etc.: Our only injury right now is Nana, who is out with three fractured vertebrae.
Predicted lineup: Double-game weeks are hard to predict, and Pablo recently tried a 4-4-2 instead of a 4-2-3-1, so who knows what he will do against Philadelphia. Regardless of the formation, the players are basically the same, so I'll stick with the 4-4-2:
Tim Howard; Eric Miller, Axel Sjoberg, Jared Watts, Mekeil Williams (maybe Marlon Hairston instead); Mohammed Saeid, Dillon Powers, Micheal Azira, Shkelzen Gashi; Kevin Doyle, Dominique Badji