In preparation for this Saturday’s Eastern Conference Finals, SBNation Bay Area exchanged questions with Chris White of Burgundy Wave, SBNation’s Colorado Rapids blog. Thanks to Chris for providing his insight into this weekend’s game!
Q. Connor Casey and Omar Cummings. Omar Cummings and Connor Casey. The highest scoring duo in the league. What does San Jose have to do to prevent them from running amok?
A. One of the reasons the duo is so effective is because they are so fundamentally different players. There’s few defenders that have the pure speed of Omar and the strength of Casey. If you saw the first Colorado/Columbus game you saw that Colorado can use the “dump the ball to Omar on the wing and have him run full speed before crossing to Casey in the box” method of attack to great effect over and over. In fact, it was that sort of move that got Pablo Mastroeni his goal. You cannot stop the duo effectively, you can only hope to contain them. The easiest way is to cover the relatively slow Casey and keep him away from the front of goal so that Cummings has to do the work himself – Omar seems to hate shooting and prefer to look for the pass, he can be quite mistake prone at times between his brilliant goals if he can’t pump the ball to Conor.
Q. Casey and Cummings get all the press, what what are some other Rapids to watch out for?
A. You obviously know about Brian Mullan, who helped San Jose to an MLS Cup earlier in the decade. Since getting him in a trade with Houston, the Rapids have suddenly had a wing presence that we haven’t seen in Colorado since Colin Clark’s fantastic play until his injury in 2009. Obviously Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz are the worst kept secret in MLS when it comes to a dominating defensive midfield, both are killer with passes and both have a strange ability to score beautiful goals at random times. And naturally, you can’t forget about Matt Pickens, who despite his one horrible mistake late in the season was completely solid all year long.
Q. Only four teams in the MLS were stingier about allowing goals, and the Rapids decreased their goals allowed from 2009 by 6. What has been key to the defensive improvement?
A. Before the season, the Rapids picked up Drew Moor and Marvell Wynne from Dallas and Toronto respectively. Those two quickly became the heart of the defense and both of them managed to have career seasons, Moor while playing every minute of every game this season. A trade for Anthony Wallace mid-way through the season worked wonders as Wallace has slowly started to mature into the fantastic Left Back that Dallas hoped he would when they picked him in the first round. Matt Pickens having a fantastic year didn’t hurt either.
Q. Colorado has only lost two games at home all season, and both by just one goal. What makes the Rapids so successful at home, and what can the Quakes do to overcome that advantage?
A. The cop-out answer here would just be to say “the altitude”, which does seem to affect opponents stamina throughout games at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. That said, it’s also pretty clear that the Rapids are much more at ease with their offense – although I have no idea why – when they’re playing in front of their home fans. Only playing the best team in the league and starting their B squad featuring Scott Palguta, Danny Earls and Mac Kandji all starting has been able to hand them a loss.
Q. Give us some predictions!
A. 2-1 Colorado is my prediction, as I said before. I think the home-field advantage and wonderful defense at Dick’s that Colorado has shown all season cannot be understated, and the attacking mentalities of both coaches as evidenced by that press conference means that we’ll more than likely be seeing more than just a 1-0 slog. I say Omar Cummings gets a goal, Brian Mullan notches his first ever goal in a Colorado uniform as well, with Wondolowski getting a late glimmer of hope for San Jose.