RSL Soapbox: Who is the most in form player for the Colorado Rapids right now and how can RSL slow him down?
Burgundy Wave: I can think of two possible answers for this one, Vicente Sanchez and Dillon Powers. Sanchez is probably the best player on the team, and brings a kind of style and ability to the game offensively that most aren't used to seeing from an MLS player, especially one who isn't a Designated Player. He has six goals and would probably have a handful of assists as well if this team weren't so shaky at finishing. The other obvious choice is Powers, who has only gotten better in his second year after winning the Rookie of the Year title in 2013. He has four goals and six assists already this season, easily leading the team in points, and the Rapids as a whole always play much better when he's on the field. He's also been one of the few players to not be affected by wild slumps of form, like we've seen from Deshorn Brown and the majority of the other players on the team. Consistency is key and he's been a rock in that regard.
RSL Soapbox: With RSL, the rivalry is still very much alive with the beterans but the younger players were not there for the early controversies and crazier results so they do not have the same view of this matchup. Is the same thing happening with the Rapids players?
Burgundy Wave: Our youngsters seem to have caught on pretty quickly, especially guys like Clint Irwin. The fans have made sure -- and this is particularly easy now that we live in a world where you can just tweet things at your favorite players -- to let the players know that Real Salt Lake games are ones to be circled on the calendar, and last year during the cup-clinching draw for the Rapids you could tell that they had a bit of extra spark to them despite being almost completely removed from Gary Smith's teams of only a couple years before.
RSL Soapbox: At midway through the season, is Colorado better than they were in 2013?
Burgundy Wave: It's a bit tough to tell, considering the up and down form that has characterized the team, but I'm going to say yes. The biggest issue for the Rapids has been depth. When they've played their preferred first team, they've looked like one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. When they've been forced by mid-week games and injuries to dip down into the secondary player pool, things have degraded quickly. They're probably a few moves away, though not necessarily moves that will affect the first team all that much, from being a real contender in Major League Soccer, which puts them in just about the same spot they were in for the majority of last season.
Questions from Burgundy Wave for RSL Soapbox
Burgundy Wave: What's struck me most about this RSL team compared to those in the past is the number of draws that we've seen. Why is this squad more draw-happy than we're used to?
RSL Soapbox: It's a great question that I think the fans as well as the coaching staff and players are asking themselves. Many fans will tell you that RSL gets a lead and then gets too comfortable and stops their attack-minded play. The coaching staff (at least publicly) will tell you that there have been some unlucky bounces or calls but that the effort and performance has generally been there. I think there is truth to both of those explanations. My opinion is that missing Saborio takes away a few goals that we would normally score. RSL is somewhere in the middle of the league as far as goals scored go. In years past they have been right at the top. That tells you something about the value of Alvaro Saborio.
Burgundy Wave: Other than Plata and the other usual suspects, are there any other players we should watch for from the RSL attack on Saturday?
RSL Soapbox: Robbie Findley is on the precipice of opening his scoring account this season after a long layoff due to injury. He is starting to look much more confident and like him old self after a few games under his belt. Olmes Garcia put in a couple goals the other night and looks much more confident in the attack. Numbers don't like, however, and the next threat after Plata in the goal-scoring department is Luke Mulholland who is new to RSL as of this season.
Burgundy Wave: I asked you this last time we met, but it's a bit farther into the season now. Even though the general team philosophy has not changed much, have there been any changes to the team's strengths, weaknesses, style etc. with Jeff Cassar as head coach?
RSL Soapbox: I don't see changes in style. Frankly, everything is much the same as it was before. Cassar does not wear his emotions on his sleeve like Kreis did, rather, he is much more upbeat and keeps a positive attitude about performances and the prospect of the "next game." There have been more ties this season than RSL fans are used to, but I don't think it has much to do with Cassar, but a variety of other factors.