By Brian Maurer
The Colorado Rapids huddled during their recent match against Sporting Kansas City (Photo credit: Sydney Kohne)
What We Have Seen So Far
The Colorado Rapids have been a combination of poor and unlucky this season. Their attack has been borderline non-existent with only three goals through their first seven matches. However, part of their attacking woes is likely due to their leading attacker, Diego Rubio, being out for the start of the season. Rubio returned to the starting lineup in April and has a goal through his first two starts.
Colorado Rapids’ Midfielder, Jack Price, suffered a season ending injury last month, which is a massive blow to the outlook of their season. Credit needs to be given to their coach, Robin Fraser, who has been able to get the squad to scrape by with results by playing compact defensively as the team gets healthy and adjusts to Price being out for a second straight campaign. This compactness defensively is shown in some of their results as they have only allowed four goals in their past six games. One of those games was a shutout against LAFC.
The Colorado Rapids took a risky swing on a new attacker by trading for one of the LA Galaxy’s designated players (DPs), Kévin Cabral. While he is a risk, the Rapids were looking to take a lower cost swing on a player with designated player caliber potential. He has yet to feature regularly in the starting lineup.
The other key additions the Colorado Rapids made was to add pieces to their defense. Making transfers for defenders Andreas Maxsø and Alex Gersbach, as well as a loan for goalkeeper Marko Ilić. Maxsø has been a regular piece in the Rapids backline as he is also one of the team’s DPs.
The final key move was the transfer for midfielder Connor Ronan, who has been a regular piece in the Rapids midfield to start the season.
Player’s to Watch
Diego Rubio - Rubio has been a mainstay in the Rapids attack for years and this past season he finally seemed to figure out how to produce at a high level, finishing 2022 with 23 goal contributions (16g/7a). This year he is just getting back into form but Charlotte FC should count on him being a part of the attack, and stopping him will need to be a major part of Charlotte FC’s game plan.
Connor Ronan - Ronan leads all of the Rapids’ outfield players in minutes this season, he has been a key part of connecting the lines with his passing and his willingness to get stuck into duels. His ability to have an influence in the middle of the field could decide the outcome of this game.
Andreas Maxsø - Their new DP center back will also be a key factor in this matchup as defensive stability has been the one major strength to the start of the Rapids’ season. Breaking down the back three led by Maxsø is going to be imperative for Charlotte FC to convince themselves and their fans that they are ready to reclaim Bank of America as the fortress it was for them so often last season.
The Colorado Rapid’s Starting XI
The Colorado Rapids have had to make a few adjustments throughout the early portion of their season as they have dealt with several injuries already. With primary attacker Rubio back in the starting lineup their past two lineups are a strong indicator of what their starting eleven could look like for this weekend’s matchup:
The Rapid's lineup versus LAFC (Image from MLSsoccer.com)
One of the potential changes, if he is ready to return, is Cole Bassett, as he was a starter before his recent injury. As the week progresses we should get an update on his injury and whether he will be ready to play.
The Rapids have been a team that has conceded possession a decent bit and packed into a compact block using a back five and their two central midfielders. This can be seen by their passing network from this past weekend as well as their season long zones of control.
The Rapid's passing network against Sporting Kansas City (Image from MLSsoccer.com)
The Rapid's season long zones of control* (Image courtesy of theanalyst.com)
Charlotte FC will need to be creative with the ball in order to break Colorado down, while also limiting turnovers that could lead to Colorado breaking on dangerous counter attacks. An area Charlotte FC have struggled in to start the season.
Outlook for 2023
The Colorado Rapids looked to be in a dire situation to start the season. Fraser has kept them hanging in games so far by reducing the amount of goals scored against them and fighting for points, and most recently a win.
The Rapids may require this type of defensive grit for most of the season, or at least until their attack poses more of a threat, which is likely dependent on how quickly Rubio can get going consistently and connect with his other attacking teammates.
*For the zones of control, blue symbolizes areas on the field that the Colorado Rapids have had at least 55% of total touches. Red represents areas where the Rapid's opposition have had at least 55% of total touches.