RSL Soapbox) Who is the best and/or most important player on the Rapids and why?
Burgundy Wave) A great question and on a team that is struggling like the Rapids are right now, it is difficult to pin point one person as best or most important. For me, it comes down to two: Clint Irwin and Dillon Powers. Quite simply, Irwin is one of the better and up and coming goal keepers in MLS and has kept the Rapids in games that they probably had no business being in. He is one of the leaders on the pitch and without him the Rapids would have more losses than they currently do.
The second person is definitely Powers. When Powers is out there, the offense is better, more organized and more dangerous as he is playing in the attacking mid role. He is able to power (pardon the pun) the ball up the field and use his creativity to release the wing players and find the striker. Unfortunately, the team is struggling as a whole scoring goals, but when Powers is out there, the team is able to play better football and give themselves a chance for full points in any match.
RSL Soapbox) The Galaxy seem to be missing Marcelo Sarvas a lot. What makes him a special player and how has he contributed to the Rapids?
Burgundy Wave) Sarvas is a leader on and off the field for the Rapids. He is a quite person who leads by example and is someone that the Rapids needed, especially after last year. He is a complete professional, makes no excuses and would give his left arm if it meant getting the Rapids a victory. He is a Captain in every sense of the word and since his injury, the Rapids have had trouble putting things together. He is the glue that holds this midfield and team together and you can see how his absence has hurt the Galaxy and when he is on the pitch for the Rapids they have lost only two matches this year.
RSL Soapbox) There are some similarities between RSL head coach Jeff Cassar and Colorado Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni in that many fans of the respective clubs are impatient with them as second-year coaches trying to find their way. What is your take on Mastroeni's performance as a coach and how long does he have to prove himself?
Burgundy Wave) I have always been a fan of Pablo as a player because of the passion, intensity and leadership that he brought to the field. He was the player that brought Colorado the MLS Cup in 2010 and when you use the term "Bleeding Burgundy" you immediately think Pablo Mastroeni.
That being said, this has been a tough run in the last 15 months in Commerce City. The record does not lie: 10 wins, 22 losses and 15 draws. For many Rapids supporters, this is a bitter pill to take especially when you look at transitions such as the one in Sandy. Cassar has seemed to have a better run in his time in charge of RSL, and for many Rapids fans it is bothersome that our rivals to the West are still having such success after losing Jason Kreis.
The Front Office and players really buy into what Pablo is doing and he has their full backing and this is a team that is in transition without a doubt. They currently have 14 new players on the roster and that integration is taking longer than hoped, but this team has improved over 2014--despite the record.
The question that people will ask--is Pablo on the hot seat? To be honest, I think every coach has that pressure that the next game could be their last. The expectations are high in Colorado, but they are also realistic. The team is going to be patient with Pablo as he learns the coaching ropes. Fans want success now, and they are not happy with the direction it seems the team is going, but there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. This team has great young talent and it just needs to continue that gelling process. There is a great deal of time left in the MLS season, and while the playoffs may be a road too far this year, the future is bright. And for right now that future includes Pablo.
*Questions from Burgundy Wave to RSL Soapbox*
Burgundy Wave) When you think Real Salt Lake one of the first things that comes to mind is the diamond formation. This year there has seemed to be a move away from it. What is the ideal formation for the Claret and Cobalt?
RSL Soapbox) My sense early on is that the focus is shifting slightly to more of top-heavy approach and a bit less of a possession-oriented approach. The reason for the formation change is to get Joao Plata, Sebastian Jaime, and Alvaro Saborio on the field at the same time. Sadly, that has not really happened yet due to injury. That is not to say that RSL will not try to possess the ball and make good passing decisions to wear teams out, but if the first quarter of games this season have been any indication, the possession battle seems to matter a little less than in years past. That said, the formation change is due to personnel strengths and Cassar has said the diamond is still a weapon up their sleeve that they will take out every so often. One thing is clear so far. RSL has done better with four midfielders so far this season. We might not know the ideal formation for another couple of months.
Burgundy Wave) Over the last six seasons, RSL has truly been one of the better clubs in MLS, but this year there seem to be a few struggles getting out of the gate. What do you feel is the main cause for this?
RSL Soapbox) For me, the main cause has to be injuries. Joao Plata was injured the first practice session of the season. Not the way you want to kick off a season. Sebastian Jaime was injured shortly thereafter. Then Javier Morales went down twice for different injuries.Chris Schuler followed suit. It seems like one key player after another has been out for something week to week. The other reason for the slow start to the season has to be that RSL keeps shooting themselves in the foot by through red cards, giving up silly goals after unnecessary mistakes, and own goals. There is not real explanation for that except that we have a few very young players that are learning through experience and a couple of veterans that have hot tempers.
Burgundy Wave) RSL is going to be busy in three competitions this year with MLS Cup, US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. What is a realistic expectation for success over those three difficult, but different, competitions?
RSL Soapbox) Success is hard to define at this point since we haven't seen the best of this team yet. If RSL can get in form and figure themselves out, they have the talent to do what they have done in past years which is to make deep runs in every tournament and possibly win them. If I were to judge this season right now based on their mediocre form, I would say getting out of our group in CONCACAF Champions League would be a success.
Predicted Lineup: Jeff Attinella, Tony Beltran, Elias Vasquez, Jamison Olave, Kenny Mansally, John Stertzer, Luis Gil, Luke Mulholland, Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio, Joao Plata
Predicted Result (and score): I think RSL will turn the corner this month and start things off with a 2-1 win at home.