OK, folks it is a short week for RSL, so that means you get a Tuesday version of three questions, plus my now standard bonus question. I was able to swap questions with burgundywave.com's Chris "UZ" White about the Rapids and what might impact the match:
1) Given the huge success of last year by winning MLS Cup, have you seen the expected elevation of the organization both on and off the pitch?
A) 1. Certainly there has been a different attitude around the organization since they lifted the cup. Most of the old fashioned summer swoons that we've come to expect from the Rapids have been more due to lack of seeming confidence that lack of straight up talent. Just look at them last summer. They were holding their form even more rigidly than normal which was problematic rather than helpful, and that led to stiff, easy to predict play. Even more unfortunate was the lackluster finishing all over the place, even by our best players like Casey and Cummings. This year there has been no hesitation anywhere on the pitch except for the Dallas game, but even then it was more a problem where the system just wasn't working out without having the engine driving the team in the middle.
more after the jump:
2) So which new player (Folan, Amarikwa, Marshall, or someone else) do you expect to make the biggest impact this year for the Rapids?
A) Amarikwa isn't actually new, he's been there since last season... although he played so terribly last season I don't blame you for not remembering him. The most likely candidate is Folan, simply because he fills Casey's spot with just slightly diminished skills from our usual big man. Casey has always been one of the problems with the team during the down times, since he's one of the more injury prone guys on the squad and seems to lose his finishing touch in the middle of every season. My other writer Ben covered this quite well after Folan had been signed and after watching him show surprising finesse and skills on the ball during the DC match I'm pretty sure that the Folan signing - Amarikwa's recent ability spike is helping as well - has made the Rapids the deepest team in the league at striker except for maybe Sporting Kansas City. Sanna Nyassi might be a dark horse candidate if he can figure out how to perform in tense situations. We saw how he handled too much pressure against him during the Dallas game where he played more fierce than fast after Dallas' quick start and almost earned a red card against himself. He does have some scoring ability and he does have some fine speed. A work in progress, but Gary Smith loves those, just take a look at Jamie Smith or Quincy Amarikwa.
3) Without Pablo Mastroeni in the lineup on Friday night the Rapids looked very disorganized against FC Dallas, if he is unable to go on Wednesday night, who if anyone can fill in for him?
A) To start, I'll say that it's more a "when" than a "what if" question right now from what I've heard, Mastroeni will almost certainly miss the Wednesday game after straining his leg in pre-game against the Hoops. What we might see is a surprise tactical shift from Gary Smith. The four players behind Mastroeni on the depth chart are very young guys, two CDMs and two ACMs. We've seen Joesph Nane many times before both last week and in Toronto, and what we've seen has been terrible. Ross LaBeaux is still very much a work in progress but will probably be the starter if Smith decides to keep his usual formation. My guess is we'll see a surprise shift to an attacker in Pablo's usual spot with Jeff Larentowicz charged with taking over his spot. The question would be, who? Steven Emory and Davy Armstrong are both newbies with the team who may be aching for their first spot, but Ben and I have a theory that you might just see Jamie Smith go into the central spot, his original location and a spot he played very well against the Portland Timbers earlier in the year. A midfield of something to the tune of Thompson - Smith - Larentowicz - Mullan will probably give the Rapids the best chance of having a shot against RSL with Mastroeni out.
Bonus Question) If you could take one player from the RSL lineup to add to the Rapids lineup, who would it be and why?
A) When at full strength, (derp) these teams are actually surprisingly similar, minus the Rapids having perhaps slightly better strikers and RSL having a better defense. As such, this question is harder than it looks. Perhaps switching out Marvell Wynne for Nat Borchers or something would be a good plan but I'd probably have to go with the guy that I had on my MVP candidate ballot last year, Nick Rimando. As much as I like Matt Pickens, the defense has played tentatively at times with him in net simply because he just isn't a really top tier goalkeeper. Rimando has shown time and time again that he is one of the best around and in a league where playoff games go into shootouts too often for my taste, he's pretty darn good at that as well.
There you go, a look in side the mind of a Rapids fan and blogger. If you want to check out what questions he asked me and how I answered, jump over to burgundywave.com. This is the only time you should ever want to visit a Rapids blog, well unless you are there to study our enemy.
OFF MY SOAPBOX