The nearly monthlong break in league play for Los Angeles Football Club is over, as they’ll take on the Colorado Rapids for the first time this season. To catch up on the topsy-turvy season for the Rapids to date, we call upon our friend Abbie Mood of SB Nation Rapids site Burgundy Wave to answer a few questions. Many thanks to Abbie for taking the time!
Angels on Parade asks Burgundy Wave:
1. The Rapids were the worst team in MLS a couple months ago, but now they aren’t. How are things going now? And what accounted for the positive change?
I’ve thought about this a lot and asked several players as well as Conor Casey himself and it seems to come down to three things: the coaching change, bringing in Lalas Abubakar and Jonathan Lewis, and the confidence that comes with the first win.
Most fans would argue that the coaching change was the biggest factor, especially considering Anthony Hudson’s comments right before he was fired, but there’s no denying how essential Abubakar has been in locking down a defense that was absolutely leaking goals. Coach Casey also seems to be putting players where they are comfortable and play well, vs. Hudson’s method of trying to shove players into a formation and roles that just wasn’t working. Firing Hudson gave the Rapids somewhat of a fresh start and after losing their first two post-Hudson matches, they’ve gone 6 games unbeaten, so things are really looking up.
2. LAFC fans probably remember Benny Feilhaber signing in Colorado, but he’s already out the door? What happened to him with the Rapids?
Benny never really seemed to get into a groove here in Colorado. He missed part of preseason due to a procedure then there were some fitness concerns (although that was Hudson’s go-to excuse, so who really knows) and then we found out he wanted to go back to Sporting Kansas City. It seemed like a good choice for SKC because of all the injuries they had, but Benny’s comment in The Kansas City Star makes it seem as though things weren’t really clicking for him here: “The year’s been pretty crazy. I knew it was going to be a process there. ... It didn’t go according to plan and not what I imagined. I’m 34; I don’t know how many more years I’m going to play. I want to be playing on a team that’s competitive and fighting for championships.”
Ironically, since Feilhaber left, the Rapids have gone 6-1-0 while SKC is 2-2-3.
3. Which player has been the real standout this season, and why?
That’s a good question. A couple of months ago I would’ve said Kei Kamara, which isn’t all that surprising. He is an incredibly dedicated, hard worker who obviously makes an impact on offense but will also sprint up and down the field to help out on defense. He is a true team player and does whatever he can to contribute.
I still think Kei has been great for the club, but we’re starting to see other guys stand out a bit, like Andre Shinyashiki and Nicolas Mezquida. We’ve known since the draft that Shinyashiki has great potential and his goal in the dying minutes of the “Snow Clasico” vs. Portland was exciting, but he continues to impress. He’s very fast and finds himself in the right place often. He has a calmness on the pitch that is uncharacteristic of rookies. Mezquida, on the other hand, was rather unimpressive at the beginning of the season but has started making a name for himself as a super sub and is finding his place.
I’m also excited to see more of Jonathan Lewis when he gets back from the USMNT and I’m hopeful that more guys will start to stand out as the season continues and the new coach comes in.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for Friday’s game?
I’d obviously love to see a Rapids win, but I think a 1-1 draw or a 2-1 LAFC win is more realistic. At least we have home field and the altitude advantage on our side!
You can read my answers to Abbie’s questions at Burgundy Wave.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!