By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUKWILA — The Colorado Rapids are in freefall, dropping games and goals while tumbling out of playoff position in the MLS Western Conference.
The Rapids had been sailing along through mid-July with a 7-5-6 record. But they have gone 1-6 since, including five straight losses heading into their Saturday afternoon match against the Sounders in Seattle.
“I know it sounds like coach’s talk when you say they’re dangerous,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “But we don’t know what mentality they’re going to come in with. If we can jump on them early, I think that’s to your advantage because then that mentality might not maintain. But right now there’s guys fighting for their jobs on that team. But also they’re a team that when you look at the standings, it’s not like they’re far away from a playoff position.”
A quick glance at the MLS table confirms Schmid’s point. Despite their downward run over the past few weeks, the Rapids will arrive at CenturyLink Field just three points out of the fifth and final playoff position with nine games to go. That leaves more than enough games and points available for the Rapids to return to the playoffs, as they did last season before being eliminated in the opening round at Seattle.
But in order to make any kind of climb, Colorado has to figure out a way to prevent goals despite the loss of central defenders Drew Moor and Shane O’Neill. Moor is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, while O’Neill is questionable with a knee injury. Jared Watts, who has filled in along the back line, is out with a hamstring strain.
The Rapids have given up 15 goals over their five straight losses, including four goals in their most recent outing, a 4-3 home loss to Los Angeles.
That’s the same number of goals the Sounders scored Sunday in their 4-2 win at Portland.
“The beauty of the sport is that no two games are ever alike,” Schmid said. “So when you’re playing against Portland, they’re very confident and they’re very ambitious, so they go forward, and that opened things up for us in the back to be able to counter attack. A team like Colorado is probably going to be a little more cautious and sit in. … We have to be a little more patient, move the ball around, create our opportunities and move their defense with our passing.”
History suggests the Sounders will find a way. They have never lost to the Rapids at home, going 7-0-1 with an aggregate 19-7 scoring advantage.
Seattle’s offense also is revving again. Obafemi Martins scored twice at Portland, earning MLS player of the week honors; while Clint Dempsey scored once. Those two share the team lead with 10 goals each. Meanwhile, Chad Barrett has scored in three straight league games and four games overall to raise his goal total to seven — two short of his career high.
“When the starters do really well, it makes it a lot easier when you’re coming off the bench because the defense is tired,” Barrett said. “Guys like Dempsey and Oba and (Marco) Pappa, all of them draw so much attention to themselves. We have guys who can just play. At times I think we play a little too much because we have too much skill. But when we start passing the ball 1-2, that’s really attractive soccer. That’s what everybody wants to see, and that’s when we score a lot of goals, so we need to keep that going.”