What? Isn't our next game against Vancouver on Wednesday? Well, yes, for all intents and purposes it is, but before then we've got a little thing called the league to get back to, and on Sunday TFC will be facing everyone's MLS Cup darlings, the Colorado Rapids. Here to prepare us for Sunday's game and give us a bit more info about the Rapids is Chris "UZ" White of Rapids blog Burgundy Wave, which is a very good place to check out the Rapids view of things before the game, and wher you can also see my answers to his questions. So, Colorado, how you doin?
Waking the Red: Campeones! Campeones! How has the MLS cup win changed expectations and the atmosphere around the Rapids? Are the fans looking forward to the champions league and expecting the team to improve in the league as well like RSL did? Has the stuttering start to the season changed that at all?
Burgundy Wave: Well, the most obvious thing is that Rapids fans now expect to see some more silverware on the table for ourselves in the next couple of years. That one cup win, from a team that for the final third of last year and going into the playoffs was one of the best looking in the league, will probably not be enough to satisfy us when a few years from now, when the team has turned over some, we look back on these years. We like to stay realistic and won't be having any delusions of a Quad like Salt Lake fans, but between this and next year we now expect to get at least one more trophy for the mantle, be it the CCL trophy, a supporters shield or just another MLS Cup.
In CCL it's doubtful that we'll have the success of Salt Lake but the Rapids did get an easy draw in the group stage compared to some of the other teams like Seattle and so the knockout stage is not out of the question at all, and at that point anything can happen so there's room at the very least for optimism here in Denver. As far as the stuttering start, there's really nothing we can do about our team being shredded by injuries, especially to our best players Casey, Mastroeni etc. When the team gets healthy, we've seen them at full strength so we know that we'll be seeing better times from a top Rapids squad.
WTR: You've obviously had plenty of injury and suspension worries so far this season, who's available right now? what sort of lineup can we expect to see, and in what formation?
BW: Pretty much regardless of injury and suspension, coach Gary Smith loves to stick to his guns, and his guns are a classic defensive 4-4-2 formation with two holding mids in the middle, with every outside midfielder and fullback helping in attack to get the ball to the strikers. Conor Casey is finally back up front after missing several weeks with a hammy injury, so thank the gods for that. The striker depth has been the most destroyed by all the injuries and we were down to our 6th string striker and a backup defensive midfielder up top at one point a few games ago. We still haven't seen Omar Cummings up top at the same time as Casey except for the home opener but at the very least having one of the 'big two' is helpful.
Other than the Brian Mullan suspension, the midfield is finally almost back to being fully intact. Other than the powerful Mastroeni-Larentowicz duo who pretty much control the possession, the wings will probably feature former Revs player Wells Thompson and our leading goal-scorer, the Scottish service-master Jamie Smith. The defense will probably feature Anthony Wallace and Kosuke Kimura on the wings with Drew Moor and your boy Marvell Wynne in the center. Matt Pickens will remain in goal. Actually, this will probably be the closest to a full strength squad that the Rapids will be putting on the pitch since they first lost Mastroeni in that 3-0 loss to Dallas.
WTR: Marvell Wynne at Centre Back, it seems such an obvious use of his talents and minimization of his flaws. Is he continuing his strong play again there this season?
BW: Marvell has excelled at center back simply because he's got the straight up speed to keep up with anyone in MLS, hiding his defensive liabilities by keeping him right next to whoever he's supposed to be marking at all times. However, Gary Smith is a brilliant coach and has turned him into a hell of a right back as well, improving his crossing ability and ball control to the point where he was actually looking like the best player on the pitch against the New England Revolution. Either way, he's a very important cog in that defense.
WTR: Toronto's hosting of the 2010 MLS Cup wasn't exactly a great success, but what did the Rapids fans that went think of the weekend and the events around the game, whether organised by TFC and MLS, or those put on by the supporter's groups?
BW: I unfortunately wasn't able to go there, but everything that I heard was great. The hosts were gracious, the Toronto fans meshed well with the Rapids fans who were around and pretty much everything up until the actual game itself was well played. The game was obviously buzzing as well, except for the planned Toronto fans walk-out which I still think was slightly childish even though the league was certainly in the wrong there. Merely a minor blemish on a fine weekend spent in Canada though, from what I heard.
Even now we still occasionally throw out the "Oh Toronto is wonderful!" chant when we're bored. :)
Aw, Shucks! Thanks UZ, good luck for the rest of the season.