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Massive Scouting Report: Colorado Rapids

Crew SC comes home to face a Rapids team looking to play spoiler.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a grueling week for Columbus Crew SC, but the Black & Gold return home on Saturday night for a clash against the Colorado Rapids. The match concludes a grueling three-game-in-seven-day stretch. Crew SC fought valiantly in Frisco, Texas, earning a draw against a talented FC Dallas squad.

The Black & Gold moved on to Providence Park on Wednesday evening for a thrilling contest against the Portland Timbers. The Timbers escaped with a victory, but Crew SC showed signs of promise throughout the match receiving a huge contribution from Niko Hansen.

To wrap up a busy week, the Rapids make the journey East to Columbus to face off against Crew SC. Things haven’t been ideal for Colorado this season. Going 6-16-6 this year, the Rapids quickly found themselves out of playoff contention.

Colorado also appears to be starting its rebuild early, trading one of its best scorers Dominique Badji toDallas for midfielder Kellyn Acosta. Despite all the change and dip in form, The Rapids have the potential to be a dangerous team and shouldn’t be overlooked when they come to town on Saturday.

Rapids at a glance

Form: L-L-L-L

Leading Scorer: Edgar Castillo, Tommy Smith, Joe Mason (3)

Assists Leader: Edgar Castillo (5)

Wide play

When the Rapids are on the attack, they look to play the ball wide. Colorado isn’t shy about utilizing its outside backs in the attack. This is especially noticeable if Marlon Hairston is in the lineup.

Following a save, Tim Howard looks through his passing options and generally favors Hairston. The 24-year-old then takes the ball to the midfield line and will drop it off to his holding midfielder, this is either Kellyn Acosta or Nana Boetang.

As the midfield advances the ball up the pitch, Hairston creeps further into the final third. The Rapids look to switch the field and get the ball back at Hairston’s feet. The outside back takes the ball very close to the end line and looks to cross it in at the last possible moment.

It’s not uncommon for Hairston’s cross to find the head of forward Jack McBean or another player making run into the penalty box. The Rapids tend to arc the ball towards the far post in an effort to spread out the defense and create space.

Set pieces

The Rapids aren’t going to wow opponents with a dynamic offensive attack. Thus, they have to get creative on restarts. Much of Colorado’s offense comes from routines on the training ground. The introduction of Acosta to the offense has helped in this matter. Crew SC players must stay tight to their man and not allow for easy opportunities in the defensive third, otherwise the Rapids will pounce.

Defense

Colorado has a lot of work to do moving forward on the defensive side of the ball. Last week, Atlanta United put on a clinic against the Rapids, collecting three goals before halftime. Colorado struggle with pace and get caught flat footed when the attack played fast and direct.

Sloppy tackling inside of the 18-yard box leads to quality opportunities for the opposition. Howard is capable of saving the day, but the former U.S. Men’s National Team standout can only do so much. Expect Columbus to play more direct against the struggle Western Conference club.

How Crew SC win

Columbus cannot afford to take mental breaks during this match. Many of the statistics and analytics point to an easy Crew SC win, but fans know the game of soccer can be cruel at times. Look for Gregg Berhalter and his staff to utilize a high press in this match. Colorado struggles with clearing the ball out of the defensive third, particularly when its at the feet of the center backs.

A direct style of play will aid the Black & Gold in this match. However, it may take something special to beat Howard. The goalkeeper is still capable of pulling off a quality performance and could frustrate Crew SC attackers on Saturday night.

Should the Black & Gold win, this weekend’s match presents a good opportunity for Columbus to catch a slumping New York City FC and put distance between themselves and a surging Philadelphia Union. The outcome could carry some weight heading into the MLS Cup playoffs.