COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Heading into the season, all the focus for the Colorado Rapids was the team’s drastic shift from a staid 4-4-2 to an attack-minded 4-3-3 lineup. But quietly, it hasn’t been an abundance of goals, but rather the Rapids’ defense that’s been the team’s anchor in their surprising 3-1-0 start.
Between the Lines: The Back Point
Led by veteran center backs Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne, the Rapids have allowed just five goals in their first four matches – the bulk coming in a 4-1 loss at New York. They’ll look to keep that momentum in Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Cup clash at Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
“The way we watch video and the way [head coach Oscar Pareja] talks to us when we’re in the back, they pretty much get us ready for what we’re about to face,” said Wynne, now in his third full season partnering with Moor at center back. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
They’ll need that kind of awareness against RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium. Colorado haven’t hoisted the Rocky Mountain Cup since 2006, and they're desperate to bring the trophy back to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“We have to concentrate and focus,” said Pareja, who will be facing former Dallas teammate and current Real Salt Lake skipper Jason Kreis. “But at the end of the day, we have to bring our heart early and often in the game and [not] wait for the other team to hurry you so you can’t react. I expect that we keep growing in that part so we can solve the problems early on in the game.”
In the Rapids’ lone loss of the season to the Red Bulls, Colorado allowed two goals in the game’s first seven minutes to slip into a hole they wouldn’t even come close to climbing out of. And in their 2-1 win at Philadelphia March 18, an early onslaught from Philadelphia nearly netted the Union several goals and kept the Rapids on their heels throughout the first half.
Against a team like RSL, that kind of slow start could be fatal. The Claret-and-Cobalt are 4-1-0 on the year, which only adds to the drama surrounding the rivalry match.
“It’s a battle from the first whistle to the last whistle. Some mysterious stuff happens,” Rapids striker Omar Cummings told MLSsoccer.com Thursday. “One of the best feelings you can have in Salt Lake is to hear that crowd go quiet. It’s one of the greatest things ever.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com