Preview: Sounders, Rapids and the fight to not be in last place

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Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO (July 4, 2018) – Nothing says an American holiday better than sports.

Americans love their sports. Right now, soccer is up and coming throughout the entire United States. While Major League Soccer might not have the popularity that the Bundesliga or English Premier League has, it is garnering attention.

Preview: Seattle Sounders, Colorado Rapids, and the fight to not be in last place

But for the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders FC, the attention isn’t positive right now. Despite having two veteran U.S. Men’s National Team legends on their sides — Tim Howard for Colorado and Clint Dempsey for Seattle — both teams are at the bottom.

That is, the bottom of the Western Conference.

The Rapids sit in 10th place with 15 points while Seattle is one spot behind with 12 points. Right below both teams, in last place, is the San Jose Earthquakes, who have 12 points.

While the Western Conference is tight at the top for first place, there is a race to not be in last place. Despite facing last place in plain sight, Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said his guys are “determined.”

“Obviously that last game stung and it hurt,” Schmetzer said, referring to Saturday’s loss to Portland. “It still hurts. It’s good that we have a mid-week game against an in-conference opponent. It gives them something to look forward to. The New England game will be a challenging game.”

Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders FC
2018 MLS Regular Season
Dick’s Sporting Good Park
July 4, 2018 – 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET
Stream: ESPN+

What To Watch For

Edgar Castillo

Don’t let the small frame of Edgar Castillo fool you.

The veteran Liga MX player — who joined Colorado in the off-season from Monterrey — has finally got his groove with Colorado. Castillo has featured internationally for the United States along with Dempsey and Howard, notching 18 appearances.

He featured for Mexico three times from 2007-08 before making his one-time FIFA switch.

Castillo is on loan to the Rapids from Monterrey and is starting to make the most of it. Castillo has started all 15 of his appearances and has scored twice. He also has one assist to his name in 1,350 minutes.

The loan spell is promising for Monterrey, but even better for Colorado. Despite being 31-years-old, Castillo is quick on the ball. He’ll have no problem matching up against Dempsey, Will Bruin, and Víctor Rodríguez.

The Injury Report

Seattle Sounders FC

Not much has changed in a few short days.

Stefan Frei will undergo another concussion protocol test and will be a game-time decision. His back up, Calle Brown, is also under concussion protocol.

Schmetzer noted that Frei had a final concussion protocol test on Tuesday. However, the club did not announce if he passed or not.

Should Frei not pass, Seattle shouldn’t lose all hope. In his first MLS start since 2012, Bryan Meredith put up a valiant effort against the Portland Timbers on Saturday. The Sounders also have Zac Lubin on loan from Phoenix Rising of the USL.

Jordan Morris and Handwalla Bwana are still out.

Joining Frei and Brown as questionable are defender Kelvin Leerdam (right hamstring strain) and midfielder Felix Chenkam (right hamstring strain). Schmetzer did note that Chenkam is training “in full.”

However, both players will join Seattle on their upcoming road swing of matches.

“We have a long road trip so we’re going to bring extra players,” Schmetzer said.

Colorado Rapids

Brian Schmetzer should be jealous of Anthony Hudson.

The Rapids only have one player on the injury list. Marlon Hairston was neither listed as out or questionable but was listed with an undisclosed injury.

However, should Danny Wilson receive a yellow card, he will be suspended due to yellow card accumulation.

Last Meeting: Sounders 3, Colorado 0

There is a history of Sounders victories in Colorado.

The Sounders punched their ticket to MLS Cup in 2016 — which they eventually won over Toronto FC at BMO Field — with a Western Conference Finals victory in Commerce City.

When Seattle took a trip to Colorado on July 4, 2017, the visitors claimed a 3-1 victory with goals from Dempsey (two) and Bruin. Colorado’s lone goal was scored by Dominique Badji.

The two sides met again, this time at CenturyLink Field, on Oct. 22, 2017. Seattle claimed a clean sheet victory over Colorado with two goals from Nicolas Lodeiro and one from Bruin.

When it comes to playing in altitude, Schmetzer said his side “power through” it.

“Your tactics can help prevent any feeling you might get,” Schmetzer said. “The ball never gets tired. We’re going to try and work on those types of messaging. We’ve had some good results there, including when we won the Western Conference championship in 2016. It is a place where we can get results.”

“We’ll get after them.”

Prediction: Seattle 3, Colorado 0

The history of victory in Colorado will help Seattle.

A recent 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps will boost spirits in the Rocky Mountain region, but Seattle will look to crush the momentum. The team desperately needs some momentum of their own.

After the Colorado match, Seattle is on the road against the New England Revolution (July 7) and Atlanta United (July 15).

“Every game now becomes a vital, must-win type of situation where we have to perform well to collect points,” Schmetzer said. “That’s just a fact. We can’t hide from that.”

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