After our key game preview, here are BSN Rapid’s projected starting XI for each team leading up to Saturday’s contest.
Colorado Rapids 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Defense (left to right): Mekeil Williams, Axel Sjoberg, Bobby Burling, Eric Miller
Midfield: Sam Cronin, Jared Watts, Dillon Powers
Forwards: Shkelzen Gashi, Kevin Doyle, Marlon Hairston
The Rapids big question mark going into this match is who plays in Micheal Azira’s place. Colorado’s defensive midfielder has been essential for the team's exceptional defensive record thus far and has started every single league game this year. Replacing him will not be easy. Azira hasn’t just started every single Rapids league game thus far but all games (US Open Cup included) except for one.
The one game in which the Ugandan did not start was the June 14th US Open Cup match against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. In a sort of B-lineup, skipper Pablo Mastroeni started Dillon Powers and Sam Cronin in the central midfield playing a 4-4-2. Powers could replace Azira in this game as well, with Pappa playing the number ten role. That might be the lineup that unlocks Colorado’s goal scoring issues. More likely Mastroeni will opt for cover in the back and put Jared Watts in his original position. This would put Burling into the vacant central defense spot, a move that might be made regardless.
The full-backs are another question mark, especially after last Saturday's struggles. Should Williams be fully fit, Mastroeni’s preferred duo has Williams on the left and Miller on the right. The rest is basically the same as we’ve seen in the last two games.
Vancouver Whitecaps 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper: David Ousted
Defense (left to right): Jordan Harvey, Tim Parker, Kendall Watson, Jordan Smith
Midfield: Andrew Jacobson, Matias Laba, Nicolas Mezquida
Forwards: Pedro Morales, Masato Kudo, Christian Bolanos
The lineup we’re projecting for Vancouver has the same back nine that the Caps played with on July ninth the last time these two teams met.
Right-back Jordan Smith is dangerous, but did start on Tuesday in a CONCACAF Champions League game and hasn’t started in two consecutive MLS games. If Smith were to be benched for rookie Cole Seiler, that could be a major advantage for the Rapids.
The two roles that I am projecting to be different from the last meeting between these teams are the number ten and the central forward position. Nicolas Mezquieda and Masato Kudo have been shaping into form in recent games and seem to be the likely choices.
Mezquida was used in Wednesday’s CCL contest so Vancouver could prefer veteran Blas Perez in that spot. However, if the plan is again for the Whitecaps to sit back and let the Rapids dominate possession, Mezquida is the logical choice as he’s also more dangerous on the counter-attack.
Stay tuned to BSN Rapids for all the latest updates on game lineups and other Rapids news for Saturday’s game.