Seattle Sounders FC vs Colorado Rapids 10-31-2013 - Preview

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Seattle Sounders FC
2 - 0
Final
Colorado Rapids
MLS Playoffs
October 30, 2013
10:30pm EDT
CenturyLink Field
NBCSNMLS LIVEAltitude 2KONG

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids | MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round Match Preview

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v COLORADO RAPIDS
CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Oct. 30, 2013 (MLS Cup Playoffs Knockout Round)
(7:30 p.m. PT; NBC SN; KONG; Altitude)

The MLS Cup Playoffs get underway Wednesday night in the Pacific Northwest when the Colorado Rapids visit the Seattle Sounders in a winner-take-all match, and a chance to meet the Western Conference top seed Portland Timbers in the conference semifinals. Seattle have stumbled down the stretch, falling down to the No. 4 spot in the West, but managed to end the season with a 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy. Colorado had a strong finish to their season, which included a 5-1 defeat of Seattle on Oct. 5. The Rapids finished the season 3-0 losers to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

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REFEREE: Silviu Petrescu. AR1 (bench): Daniel Belleau; AR2 (opposite): Peter Manikowski; 4th: Allen Chapman
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS: none

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: SEA 8 wins, 19 goals … COL 2 wins, 15 goals … Ties 2
2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: SEA 1 win, 3 goals … COL 1 win, 5 goals … Ties 1
AT CENTURYLINK FIELD:
7/20: SEA 1, COL 1 (Yedlin 65 – Moor 60)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: First meeting.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

READ: Sounders Gspurning preparing to play vs. Rapids in Knockout Round

  • Despite the draw in the season finale vs. LA Galaxy, Sounders FC ended the year on a seven-game winless run, second-longest in club history. They put an end to their MLS club-record four-game losing streak.
  • "Our play I thought was a big improvement over the way we had been playing," said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. It's certainly a bit step forward as we move into the playoffs ... I think it was important, as well, to stop the bleeding a little bit."
  • Seattle scored their first goal since Oct. 9 in the season-ending draw, ending a 231-minute goalless drought, the seventh-longest in team history.
  • Clint Dempsey scored his first goal in nine league appearances since signing with Seattle in the season-ending 1-1 home draw with the LA Galaxy. "It is always good to score,” Dempsey said. “You don't want to have a goose egg for the season. It is good to get on the score sheet and hopefully they will start coming a little easier now."
  • In the season finale, Schmid put out his team with Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle as the strike pair, with Clint Dempsey as an attacking central midfielder, and Adam Moffat and Brad Evans in wider roles.
  • "I thought putting the midfield together the way we did and playing the two up front - Neagle and Eddie Johnson - I thought ... resulted in some good possession for us and I thought we created some good chances," Schmid said. " ... It's the first time we've played like this in midfield, so it's a matter of continuing to sharpen how we're going play in that unit of four players in that formation." Said Evans: “I thought the first half was great. It was a lot of fun to play. Early in the week, we said we’re going to go into a diamond and kind of switch things up a little bit. Get a little more possession and get back to how we were playing in the middle of the year, getting our outside backs involved and passing through the windows."
  • After Marcus Hahnemann played in back-to-back losses to Portland and Dallas, Michael Gspurning returned between the posts for the Galaxy match. “I thought Michael came back and had a good game,” said Schmid. “Is he the goalkeeper that gave up nine goals in two games or the goalkeeper who averaged less than a goal per game for 40-plus games?"
  • Eddie Johnson was in an MLS match for the first time since Oct. 5, while Marc Burch and Djimi Traore both returned to the back four for the first time since Oct. 9.

COLORADO RAPIDS

READ: Rapids must overcome inauspicious trends in playoff clash vs. Sounders

  • The Rapids were shut out in a third consecutive road game in their regular season finale, a 3-0 loss at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. They have scored 10 goals in their last three home games.
  • “When you lose a game like that, you can’t say that we came out prepared. you can say that we’re not really in a playoff mode that you want to see a team in,” Rapids coach Oscar Pareja said. “It didn’t happen for many lapses of the game, and we paid for that.” Said Rapids defender Drew Moor: "We didn’t show up, we didn’t perform. At this point of the season, you can’t have performances like that. This might be the wake-up call we need.”
  • The three goals conceded in the season finale matched the season-high allowed by the Rapids -- which they had not done since back-to-back matches vs. Portland on June 23 (0-3 loss) and Montreal on June 29 (4-3 win). “We almost played like a team that was just satisfied to be in the playoffs, and that’s unacceptable at this point,” Moor said.
  • In the season finale, Pareja lined out Edson Buddle as the spearhead in attack, with Gabriel Torres as the attacking central midfielder underneath. Torres scored three of the final four goals netted by the Rapids in the league campaign, including the final goal in the 5-1 rout of Seattle on Oct. 5 in Commerce City. “We have to explore all the possibilities,” Pareja said. “Gabby did a good job in the last game when we played them. Despite the result, the plan worked how we wanted. Is that a plan for the future? We will see.”
  • For the season finale, the Rapids were without midfielders Dillon Powers (concussion) and Vicente Sanchez (shoulder) through injury. “I normally don’t look at who is not in the lineup,” Pareja said. “We have built this team with a different mentality, which is just think about the players who perform and how we can get it better.”
  • The Rapids are in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011, when they were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage by Sporting Kansas City.
  • "We’ve for the most part performed well on the road this season," Moor said. "We’re confident on the road. It’s a one-off game. I’m trying to tell these young kids, it doesn’t matter at this point what it looks like, how you play, we’ve just got to go and get the job done.”