Nico Matchups to watch
Mike Fiechtner

SEAvCOL: Three Matchups to Watch, presented by Toyota

The Seattle Sounders are hosting the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (7:00 p.m. PT; JOEtv, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM; TICKETS) in Week 2 MLS action. Here are three matchups to watch, presented by Toyota.

Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Benny Feilhaber

The Rapids overhauled their roster in the offseason, bringing in several MLS veterans to bolster Head Coach Anthony Hudson’s reclamation project. One of those additions, former Sporting KC and LAFC midfielder Benny Feilhaber, will play a critical role on Saturday as he attempts to set the tempo and maintain possession from the base of the Rapids’ diamond midfield. Nominally an attacking midfielder, he’ll get a baptism-by-fire in his defensive-minded role, as he’ll be tasked with marking Lodeiro. With just a single No. 6 in Colorado’s system, tracking Lodeiro’s incessant off-the-ball movement will fall at the feet of Feilhaber. If the Uruguayan maestro can drag his counterpart out of position, look for Jordan Morris and Víctor Rodríguez to pinch inside, overloading the center backs. Conversely, if Lodeiro can press Feilhaber effectively, the Sounders will wrestle control of the midfield from the Rapids, nullifying any threat of getting unbalanced in possession.

Lodeiro on the ball against FC Cincinnati | Charis Wilson

Gustav Svensson vs. Nicolás Mezquida

As stated above, the Rapids are likely to roll out a 4-4-2 diamond when they take the pitch at CenturyLink Field. In Colorado’s dramatic 3-3 draw with the Timbers on opening day, Mezquida lined up at the tip of the diamond, pulling the strings in possession as the No. 10. Cristian Roldan occupies a more advanced role, so the Swedish destroyer will be tasked with mitigating this visitor’s midfield fulcrum. Svensson, who relies more in his soccer IQ than imposing physicality, will be intimately familiar with this task, as the pair have faced off in several Cascadia derbies when Mezquida played for the Whitecaps. With the Rapids implementing a two-forward setup, the big Swede will need to close his counterpart down quickly in transition, denying any passing lanes to release Kei Kamara or Diego Rubio in behind. Mezquida completed four dribbles in the match against Portland, so Svensson will need to be patient in 1-v-1 situations.

On top of his midfield duties, Svensson will need to provide an aerial threat on set pieces | Lindsay Wasson

Brad Smith vs. Keegan Rosenberry

Smith put in a dominant showing against FC Cincinnati in the Sounders 2019 season-opener, routinely bombing down the left and creating numerical overloads to free up Rodríguez. Rosenberry, 25, burst onto the scene for the Philadelphia Union as a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2016. In Colorado’s system, the width is not typically established through the full backs, but rather from inside-out sequences by the forwards or penetrating runs from midfielders. Smith will need to be alert as Rosenberry attempts to advance possession with line-breaking passes down the flanks. Conversely, if Smith can get forward in possession, he’ll consistently create numerical advantages with Rodríguez and Lodeiro, stringing together intricate possession sequences as the Rave Green attempt to enter optimal assist zones. Since the start of preseason, his relationship with the Spanish midfielder has seemed almost telepathic. Another strong showing from the Australian full back on Saturday will be critical to securing three points at home.

Smith put in a solid, two-way shift against Cincinnati in the season opener | Mike Fiechtner