After picking up a win and their first goals of the season against San Jose last week, the New England Revolution are off to face a totally different challenge against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night. Colorado is mired in a slump dating back well into last season, and have started off the 2015 campaign with three straight 0-0 draws.
To learn more about the Rapids, we spoke with John Rosch of Burgundy Wave, SB Nation's Colorado blog.
TBM: The obvious question has to come out here: what is going on? A near-record winless streak, and now three 0-0 games to open the season. It wasn't that long ago that people were looking at the Rapids like they were one of the better, young, up-and-coming teams in the league. What happened?
JR: Terrific question. There have been a number of factors have gone into the winless streak. Part of it is a new coach in Pablo Mastroeni learning how to be a coach. Mastroeni really struggled last year in player management and lacked the tactical acumen to adjust to changing game situations. There were also a number of key injuries (both to Drew Moor and Shane O'Neill last year) and this had substitute players playing out of position to cover for injuries on the pitch.
As for the start to this season the focus has been on the defense and the shape and line that they are taking. The Rapids were a disaster along the back line and the club wanted to have a strong defense as the backbone of the team. They have done this so far, but it is clear that the team is not clicking on all cylinders. The offense has obviously not scored yet, but they are creating chances. However it is time for them to take those chances and put them in the back of the net. People are concerned, but the club has their spirits up and feel that the goals will be coming soon.
TBM: If it be goals you need, losing Deshorn Brown can't help. What was the story on him leaving, and how do the Rapids replace him?
JR: The departure of Brown was tough to take for many supporters as he was the leading goal scorer over the past two seasons. But Brown wanted to play in Europe and with the impending arrival of Kevin Doyle, the Brown sale made sense. The Rapids also have Luton Shelton on trial right now and he possesses the speed and quality in the final third the Rapids need.
Regardless of Doyle or Shelton, much of the goal scoring falls to Gabriel Torres and so far he has had chances but has yet to bury them. Torres has to start playing better or he could find his playing time limited.
TBM: Dillon Powers was the next big thing after his rookie season, but he seems to be bouncing around the lineup a little bit, almost like he doesn't have a set position. Is this hindering his development and, by extension, the Rapids' form? Where do you think he fits best in this team?
JR: Powers is best as a center midfielder and in an attacking mode. He has the skills and ability to set up plays and track back on defense as needed. Is it hindering him? Powers is a player that was played out of position much last year and that did hinder him.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
JR: Much of the discussion is about the improved defense. But for me, I would watch out for Juan Ramirez. The kid has skills and is fast and has that something special.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
JR: Irwin, Burch, Burling, O'Neill, Harrington, Pittinari, Cronin, Ramirez, Powers, Sarvas, Torres.