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April 26, 2014 at 12:25 AM

Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids, preview and prediction

Sounders FC (4-2-1) vs. Colorado Rapids (3-1-2)
Saturday, April 26, 1 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV: Q-13 FOX (local), ROOT Sports (regional)
Radio: KIRO 97.3 FM
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO2), ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Referee: Armando Villarreal

KEY RAPIDS PLAYERS

M Jose Mari — He’s listed as questionable with a thigh injury, but MLSsoccer.com’s Chris Bianchi reported he has been able to practice this week and should be good to go unless there’s a setback. The 26 year old joined the Rapids on trial in preseason after leaving Spanish side Real Zaragoza, and he’s already scored two highlight-reel goals against Vancouver. Be sure to check them out in these highlights (at 5:01 and 5:56 marks).

GK Clint Irwin — A talented writer (be sure to check out his stuff for SI.com, here was his latest) along with being a talented goalkeeper. He finished fourth in the voting for 2013 MLS Newcomer of the Year and has allowed just one goal in his three games played so far this season, two wins and a tie. Had 10 shutouts last year, which tied a club record. His 14 wins were second best in team history to a guy you may know (Marcus Hahnemann had 16 in 1998, two via shootout).

M Vicente Sanchez — I guess you have to include the team’s leading scorer, as the 34-year-old Uruguayan has four goals. It just feels a bit weird with all four goals having come by way of the penalty kick. In fact, of the team’s eight goals this season, five have come from the spot or a direct rebound. Still, this winger has a proven resume for both club (Toluca, Club America, Schalke) and country (31 caps).

KEY MATCHUPS

Obafemi Martins vs. Shane O’Neill/Drew Moor — It’s no secret that the Rapids will have to shut down a potent Sounders attack. Colorado has embraced a defense-minded attitude under new coach Pablo Mastroeni, and surely bottling up Clint Dempsey will be the center of attention. But I wonder if the visitors’ central defenders will be able to keep up with Seattle’s speedy forward. And that could be a big issue if the geoducks didn’t sit well with O’Neill.

Deshorn Brown vs. DeAndre Yedlin — This was the crucial matchup in last year’s 5-1 debacle in Colorado, a result both Sigi Schmid and Dempsey brought up this week unprompted. Brown had two goals against the Sounders that day, but he only has two goals in the eight games since. In form or not, the 23-year-old Jamaican has the physical tools to match up with his fellow Rookie of the Year finalist from last season.

Sounders home form vs. Rapids road form — Seattle, for just the third time in its MLS era, is amid a home losing streak. Much has changed in the month away, though, particularly with Dempsey back from suspension and the team coming off a thrilling 2-0-1 road trip. Colorado has proven tough on the road with a 2-0-1 record. Sure wins came against 10-man Vancouver and shorthanded Toronto, but the defense was held tough.

PREDICTION

This looks like it could be a fun one to kick off the weekend. It’s two of the top teams in the Western Conference. It’s also a matchup between two teams that met in the playoffs last year.

But while Toronto and Columbus came to Seattle willing to come out and play, I wonder if the Rapids will really bunker in. Each of Colorado’s games this season was scoreless at halftime — remarkable.

Still, I think the home side will ride its momentum to victory (and a clean sheet).

Sounders FC 1, Colorado 0

SEA — Obafemi Martins (DeAndre Yedlin) 56′

*     *     *

How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction, Sounders FC

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