Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die
Apologies to Lord Tennyson for the paraphrase. Sunday the Rapids either figure out how to score or the season ends. Going in down 1-0 from the first leg Colorado must win, and if they allow LA to score they have to win by 2. A 1-0 win will take the game to extra time and if necessary, penalty kicks. Kickoff for our first home playoff match in 5 years is noon, which means an early tailgate kickoff at 9am. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
OUT: M Dillon Serna (season ending ACL tear)
ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: D Jared Watts; M Jermaine Jones, F Dominique Badji
MLS actually updated the injury report this week. Looks like Serna is the only one not available for the Rapids. LA is missing Zardes still and Gerrard is questionable.
Starting XI Prediction:
I think this will be the lineup regardless of the strategy Pablo goes with. There's really two ways I can see playing this game. The first is to go out, push to find the goal that will tie the series early, and then try to get a winner while hopefully not opening up too much and giving up an away goal. The second, and the one I expect the Rapids to use, is to play conservatively, prevent an away goal at all costs, make LA work hard, and wait for the altitude to kick in during the second half. This is how we've played most of our home games this season and LA, being an older team, would seem to be even more susceptible to it. Ones LA is on fumes then we push for the tying goal with the confidence that if we only get 1-0 and extra 30 minutes probably favors us and certainly we'd be the favorite in PKs with Tim Howard in the net.
That's what I expect Doyle to start over Badji as introducing Badji's speed when LA is tiring might be the way to crack them open. The ke to this strategy though is Jones being able to go 90 or 120. If he's not up to that we may see a lineup like last week where Powers starts and is replaced by Jones at half.
The downside to this strategy is that there isn't much room for error. If the Rapids give up a goal suddenly we're three behind. That will force Colorado to open up and attack the game and we may be looking at a 3-2 scoreline. If we're successful at keeping LA at bay we're still limiting ourselves to really attacking in a limited time and that could result in a 0-0 draw.
Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Jones. We then go into extra time and PKs and on the back of Howard we advance to the conference finals. Yeah, this is a bit of an optimistic viewpoint but I do think we can blank LA at home. We've had 10 clean sheets at home this season, including one against LA. Pablo will focus on that and JJ will pull one out of a hat to get us to extra time. LA will push hard to win it in extra time but we'll barely get through to PKs.