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October 5, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids, preview and prediction

Colorado Rapids LogoSounders FC (15-8-6) vs. Colorado Rapids (12-9-9)
Saturday, Oct. 5, 7 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
National television: NBC Sports Network (John Strong, Brian Dunseth)
Local radio: KIRO 97.3 FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: David Gantar

KEY RAPIDS PLAYERS

D Chris Klute — Starting off with a rookie left back? Why not? The Atlanta Silverbacks product has been one of the breakout players of the MLS season. He has seven assists — yes, seven assists — as a defender. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid praised his size, athleticism and, of course, his left foot. At 6 foot 1, he could be a bad matchup for Mauro Rosales on the wing.

M Dillon Powers — If Klute isn’t the favorite for MLS Rookie of the Year, it might be this central midfielder. He’s played both roles in the middle this season, more defensive and more advanced, en route to four goals and five assists. It has been a bit of a dry spell, however, for the former Notre Dame star having not factored into a scoring play in the past six games.

GK Clint Irwin — Another first-year player, another standout. Made the team after a strong preseason training camp and was pressed into a starting role early on due to injuries ahead of him on the depth chart. His stats rate among the best in the league at his position with 10 shutouts, a 1.00 goals-against average, 77 saves and a 71 save percentage.

KEY MATCHUPS

Eddie Johnson vs. Shane O’Neill/Drew Moor — EJ has scored in four of his last six starts, the last three goals coming on headers. He will have a stern challenge in the air with the Colorado center backs (O’Neill is 6 foot 2, Moor is 6 foot and athletic). Johnson has yet to face the Rapids this season due to injury and international duty, but he scored in his last two games against them last year.

Hendry Thomas vs. Brad Evans — The Colorado midfielder is one of the more physical players you’ll see in the league, and some of his tackles are absolutely crunching. The Sounders have someone who can contest the Honduran for duels and 50-50 balls in midfield. Evans wasn’t pleased with his performance last game against the Red Bulls and will be looking to bounce back.

Oscar Pareja vs. Sigi Schmid — The Rapids coach has been mentioned as one of the favorites for MLS Coach of the Year, and if you look at all the first-year players on the team (Klute, Power, Irwin, O’Neill, Deshorn Brown) it’s not hard to see why. But how will this young squad handle the stretch run for the first time? How will Pareja guide them? Schmid, of course, has seen all this before.

PREDICTION

I think we’ll learn a lot about these teams in this one.

Are the Rapids really a contender? As mentioned before, how will all the young players react to late-season pressure for the first time?

On the other side, will the shorthanded Sounders have the mentality to come in on the road against a desperate performance and get a win? Not only did Clint Dempsey not travel, but there are questions whether Obafemi Martins did as well as fans on the team flight didn’t spot the Nigerian forward. The Sounders haven’t responded to an inquiry on the matter.

In the end, I think both teams might end up disappointed with the result as I see it playing out.

Sounders FC 1, Colorado Rapids 1

COL — Deshown Brown (Nathan Sturgis) 49′
SEA — Lamar Neagle (Eddie Johnson) 71′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see it ending?

| More in Preview and prediction

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