The Rapids are in town for the next few days and tonight's game at 7:30 p.m. at CommunityAmerica Ballpark is going to be played in some remarkable KC weather. (Tuesday's game will be at UMKC.)
It's just your typical Saturday-Tuesday soccer double-header, right?
Here's the biggest question I can think of: Are the Wizards really one of the Top 5 teams in the MLS, or was D.C. United just awful?
I have to think there's a little bit of truth in both parts. I, like most people, was blown away by the Wizards two weeks ago. The scoreline (4-0) was impressive, but not indicative. DC gave up after that second goal and really didn't seem to be up for the task. What I was really impressed with was the way the Wizards played for 90 minutes as if the score didn't matter.
I enjoy reading some highly intellectual soccer analysis. (I know that I don't provide much of that here, but I like reading it.) And this week, I read a remarkable analysis about Barcelona from The Guardian. It's about how great Barcelona is in possession.
But it's more than that. Barcelona, if you watch closely, constantly press the ball when the other team is in possession. (My favorite quote from Barca boss Pep Guardiola: "Without the ball, we are a disastrous team, a horrible team, so we need the ball.") Because they are so devastating when they are in possession, that only heaps more pressure on the other team to capitalize when they do have the ball.
I think this is the system the Wizards are instituting. Not just from that one game, but also from what I've seen at practice and judging the players KC is bringing in (high work-rate guys, speedy guys, etc.). Push when you have the ball, press when you don't and always be smart it.
Now, I'm not saying KC and Barcelona are identical twins (you won't mistake anyone in cobalt blue for Leo Messi), but I think the Wizards' ethos (at the office, we like to call the pressing style "90 Minutes of Hell") and formation (they also play a 4-3-3 that morphs into a 2-5-3 with overlapping fullbacks when attacking and a 4-5-1 when sitting on a lead) are at the very least cousins of the Spanish giants.
How well can the Rapids midfield (specifically Pablo Mastroeni) handle that kind of pressure? If the midfield can't keep the ball, how can they supply Omar Cummings and Connor Casey? That's the key to this game.BTW, If you have some time and want to read a brilliant analysis, that Guardian piece is the best I've seen in a long time.
BEST GUESS AT FORMATION4-3-3: The morphing attack
The Seven Subs: Kronberg, Myers, Bunbury, Hohlbein, Aiyegbusi, Hirsig, Zusi
TODAY'S REFEREELandis Wiley
To the best of my Google knowledge, Landis Wiley is a ref from Iowa who hasn't been the lead ref yet in MLS.
INJURY REPORTKansas City
OUT: F Zoltan Hercegfalvi (torn ACL); PROBABLE: MF Davy Arnaud (hamstring strain), MR Stèphane Auvray (knee), DF Birahim Diop (knee contusion), MF Roger Espinoza (ankle sprain), FW Kei Kamara (foot/toe), MF Chance Myers (hamstring strain), FW Josh Wolff (mild concussion).Colorado
OUT: Ciaran O'Brien (hip sprain), FW Ross Schunk (ACL tear); DOUBTFUL: GK Ian Joyce (ankle sprain); PROBABLY: MR Jamie Smith (hamstring strain), Wells Thompson (hamstring strain)Suspensions: None
This is a really huge test for the Wizards. As I said yesterday, Cummings/Casey are big and strong and unlike anything anyone else in the MLS can put out there. But the midfield battle and how the Rapids handle the work-rate of Stèphane Auvray (not to mention who wins the Ryan Smith-Kosuke Kimura battle) will determine this result.Score prediction:
3-1 Wizards. I'm calling a brace by Davy Arnaud (hence the video tribute this morning) along with a Smith goal. Cummings for Colorado's lone goal.
Song to get you pumped
I prefer the Dropkick Murphy'sbefore
Al Barr took over the singing duties. (It's a long story, but it involves him being a jerk and my wife's love of the first album.) But I cannot deny how awesome this song is. It has nothing to do with Kansas City or soccer per se, but I think that all Irish-roots punk rock is getting-ready-for-soccer music.
Let's go Wizards. What's your prediction?