Injury And Suspension Recovery Key To Colorado Rapids Fixing Defense

KANSAS CITY, KS - APRIL 09: Forward Dom Dwyer (14) drives past Defender Kortne Ford (24) during the MLS match between Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids. Sunday April 9th, 2017 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Editorial (April 29, 2017) – The Colorado Rapids defense has been struggling and shorthanded. It has normally been their biggest strength under Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni. Fortunately for Colorado, help is on the way.

Injury And Suspension Recovery Key To Colorado Rapids Fixing Defense

The Rapids have given up eight goals in their last four games. There’s no doubt the trade of Sam Cronin and Marc Burch hasn’t looked great this past month. But the Rapids have had some bad luck early on in the season. If not for a late red card on a tough bounce against Jared Watts, they probably win against Real Salt Lake. Dominique Badji had a shot go off the post that could have earned a draw at Minnesota United FC.

Suspensions At Bad Times:

The Rapids have now had three defensive players suspended this month. First Tim Howard was suspended three games for a game in Kansas City for some unfortunate interactions with a fan. Jared Watts got a red card against RSL. Now Kortne Ford is suspended for this weekend’s game due to tackle in Minnesota.

Because of the suspensions to center backs, Colorado has had to mix and match center back pairs. That lack of continuity has hurt the defensive performance. Fortunately, this is the last weekend of anyone being suspended (pending any red cards against Orlando City SC). Watts is back from his suspension. Howard and Ford will be back after this match.

Axel Sjöberg’s Injury Has Been Huge:

Axel Sjöberg was a Defender of the Year candidate last year. He’s arguably the most important player defensively now that Cronin is in Minnesota. I say that considering the fact that Sjöberg’s first replacement is an MLS Rookie, while Howard’s replacement is at least an average starting goalkeeper in Zac MacMath.

Sjöberg went down the second week of the season with a hamstring injury at New York Red Bulls. He’s scheduled to return in a couple of weeks. He’s this team’s best defender in the air. He’s deceptively quick. He’s a good organizer. When he steps into the Starting XI, they get an immediate boost.

With him, Colorado is more organized against Sporting KC. Maybe they don’t give up as many corners to RSL. Maybe he prevents that goal in Minnesota. The Rapids appear to be having an identity crisis right now. With Sjöberg, maybe they’re 1-1-1 instead of 0-3.

The Colorado Rapids have been without a regular starting defender/goalkeeper since Week 3 of the season. I challenge any MLS team to go through that seamlessly. Once this team gets everyone back, they’ll be in better shape. All is not lost.