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April 20, 2013 at 8:08 AM

Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids, preview and prediction

Colorado Rapids LogoSounders FC (0-3-2) vs. Colorado Rapids (2-3-2)
Saturday, April 20, 3 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
TV/radio: KONG 6/16, KIRO 97.3 (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Silviu Pestrescu

KEY RAPIDS PLAYERS

GK Clint Irwin — The 24 year old has come out of nowhere to become one of the bigger stories leaguewide the past few weeks. The replacement for Matt Pickens (broken arm) has recorded back-to-back shutouts in back-to-back wins, but it’s not like things have come easily. He has faced a penalty kick in all each of his four starts, having turned two attempts away.

D Marvell Wynne — The center back got a new contract in January and has played every minute of the season so far. He’s become a staple of the Rapids back line the past few years and his physical tools (speed, especially) always stand out. He was on the fringe of the U.S. men’s national team a while back and has settled into a steady presence in Colorado.

F Atiba Harris — It sounds like rookie sensation Deshorn Brown could be out for this one, so other pieces in the attack will have to step up. That could mean this veteran, who has already played for five teams in his eight-year MLS career. He’s a bit physical, a bit feisty, and there are some folks around the league who would call him a bit dirty. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid mentioned him a few times in the buildup to the weekend.

KEY MATCHUPS

Edson Buddle vs. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — Much of the talk for both these guys is can they get back to the level from a few years ago. Who can forget when Buddle was in a galaxy of his own with L.A., when he scored 17 goals in 2010? And we, of course, remember when Hurtado was an MLS All-Star and Defender of the Year finalist in 2009. Things have been up and down for both more recently, so who will get the better of things Saturday?

Mauro Rosales vs. Chris Klute — Seattle’s captain appears to have responded very well since being benched in the CCL semis, though he might be without his top targets again. I missed the tweet, but a few people saw a post Friday night from Eddie Johnson indicating he didn’t make the trip to Colorado. Obafemi Martins has been limited some in training this week, so it’s probably safe to say he’s not 90 minutes ready. David Estrada is also ruled out. Klute, on loan from Atlanta, is a stout 6-foot-1, so beware for a crunching tackle, too.

The team that made the turnaround from a slow start vs. the team hoping to — Believe it or not, the Rapids were an 0-3-2 team this season at one point. But win back-to-back games and all is forgotten. Well, almost. That’s the model the Sounders are aiming to copy after a franchise-worst and last-place start. The things is, has Colorado turned the corner into a team that could actually contend for a playoff berth after nice wins against Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake?

PREDICTION

The law of averages — particularly in MLS — say a team has to win eventually, right? I mean this Sounders team isn’t the Toronto squad that lost nine in a row to start 2012 or the Chivas USA group that 14 games without a win to close last year.

I feel Seattle’s first-choice defense should be able to keep a clean sheet against a shorthanded Rapids attack that, as mentioned before, could be missing its leading scorer in Brown. Another top rookie in Dillon Powers also could be on the mend.

The question is: Can the Sounders score? I don’t know. I think so, but I don’t know. And I’ve predicted Seattle to win quite a few times this year and been horribly wrong, so… maybe I should just throw darts.

Sounders FC 1, Colorado Rapids 0

SEA — Brad Evans (pk) 54′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

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