Sounders look to get things right against the Rapids

The frustration has been mounting but the club is ready to get things straight when they visit Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Sounders FC @ Colorado Rapids
April 20, 3:00 pm PT - Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, La Gran D 99.3 FM
Colorado’s Record: The Rapids are 2-3-2 (8 points) and tied for fourth on points, but sit sixth in the Western Conference with a -1 goal difference.

For most of the last six seasons, preparing to face the Colorado Rapids meant constructing a defense to combat the forward combo of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey.

Together, they combined for 89 goals and their efforts culminated in the 2010 MLS Cup title. Since then injuries have plagued the two, who have combined for just 17 goals in two seasons after hoisting the Anschutz Trophy and both now find themselves in the Eastern Conference while the Rapids have rebuilt themselves under the eye of head coach Oscar Pareja.

Although the new season is just seven games old for Colorado, they have already found their form as the Sounders FC come to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for their first visit of the season on Saturday. After starting the season at 0-3-2, the Rapids have won two straight over Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA to build confidence.

“It’s weird not seeing them, but teams always go through evolutions, teams always go through changes,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said of Cummings and Casey. “Oscar is now in his second year, so he’s putting his stamp on the team. He’s obviously adjusted his philosophy from what he felt would be successful last year, and their last two games have been good results for them, so I’m sure they want to build on that.”

Pareja replaced the departed Cummings and Casey with veteran US international Edson Buddle and promising rookie DeShorn Brown while also revamping the team’s formation and attack.

The forward combo wasn’t the only change in personnel though. Gone also is midfielder Jeff Larentowicz and in his place is former Chivas USA and Toronto FC set-up man Nick LaBrocca. Their defense has undergone a makeover, too, and with goalkeeper Matt Pickens out with a broken forearm, they have turned to Clint Irwin.

So far, Irwin has posted a 0.81 goals against average in his five appearances and has two consecutive clean sheets.

With a lineup that includes a lot of size all over the field, they have shifted philosophies to a more direct approach.

“Last year they were maybe a little more trying to be an inter-passing team, little short passing team, building out of the back, possession oriented in that way,” Schmid said. “Now they’ve just gone big and strong.”

The Sounders, meanwhile, are looking for their first win of the 2013 season and have had luck on their side against the Rapids. In the all-time series, the Sounders lead 7-1-1, with a six-game winning streak that dates back to May 29, 2010.

Kickoff for Saturday’s match is scheduled for 3 pm PT with television coverage on KONG 6/16, the radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM and the live blog on SoundersFC.com.

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