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October 30, 2013 at 12:40 PM

Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids, preview and prediction

Colorado Rapids LogoSounders FC (West No. 4) vs. Colorado Rapids (West No. 5), Western Conference knockout round
Wednesday, Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV: KONG 6/16 locally, ROOT Sports regionally, NBC Sports Network nationally (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM, SiriusXM FC (channel 94)
Spanish coverage: THIS-TV (KOMO2, Ch. 114), La Gran D 99.3 FM
Referee: Silviu Petrescu

KEY RAPIDS PLAYERS

F Gabriel Torres — A lot of attention went to the Sounders DP signed in August, but this Panamanian international (signed as a DP on Aug. 8) has had a big impact, as well. Boasts three goals in his last three starts. One of those, plus an assist, came in the 5-1 win against Seattle on Oct. 5. Coming off a red-hot CONCACAF Gold Cup in the summer, where he had five goals in the tournament and played a part in all three goals in two wins over Mexico.

D Drew Moor — The veteran center-back has been the leader of a back five (including the goalkeeper) that has three first-year players. His 2,793 minutes are a team-high among field players, so he’s been a steadying force. The defense just gave up three goals in Vancouver over the weekend, and Moor was beaten badly on Camilo’s second, so we’ll see if they’re able to bounce back after having averaged about a goal per game allowed before the 3-0 defeat.

GK Clint Irwin — Arguably a Newcomer of the Year candidate in a breakout year in goal. Got the job when Matt Pickens went down injured, but then never gave it back. Among the league leaders in a number of key categories like save percentage (69), shutouts (10) and goal-against average (1.10). He’s never been on this stage, however.

KEY MATCHUPS

Clint Dempsey vs. Hendry Thomas — All the attention is on Dempsey, as always, and his goal in the regular season finale surely took some pressure off. Expect him to be a center attacking midfielder again after the Sounders unveiled the new formation against the Galaxy, but either way, he was always going to run into the physical Honduran. Thomas led the Rapids this year with 59 fouls committed and seven yellow cards.

DeAndre Yedlin vs. Chris Klute — Seattle’s new diamond formation will leave a lot of room on the flanks for the outside backs on both teams. Colorado has a great one in Klute, who collected a team-high seven assists on the left wing and has even been on a couple MLS Best XI ballots I’ve seen. The Sounders rookie will have to worry about that on defense, but also take advantage of opportunities going forward.

Sounders in do-or-die mode vs. Rapids’ youth — Seattle has thrived in loser-out games, when you look at the team’s U.S. Open Cup history over five years and then the second legs in playoff series (often having to make up for poor first-leg performances). Colorado hasn’t been as tested, but with a number of young contributors, the youthful exuberance and excitement could actually lead to them embracing a nothing-to-lose mentality.

PREDICTION

It’s been 47 days since Seattle’s last win.

Not the ideal circumstances going into a must-win, but I feel the Sounders have had a boost of confidence being able to get closer to full strength. A new formation, a new season provides a fresh start, and this Seattle team is still extremely dangerous.

Even amid the struggles, a think the home team keeps its season alive.

Sounders FC 2, Colorado Rapids 1

SEA — Eddie Johnson (Clint Dempsey) 34′
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 76′
COL — Deshorn Brown (Nathan Sturgis) 88′

*     *     *

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

| More in Preview and prediction

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