Nashville will be playing an MLS team in the fourth round of the US Open Cup! And it’s a familiar one to several of NSC’s personnel: coach Gary Smith, keeper Matt Pickens, and defender Kosuke Kimura all won an MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids in 2010, and rookie Alan Winn was drafted by the team just this year.
What else are the Rapids all about? I went to Abbie Mood Lang of SBNation’s Burgundy Wave Rapids blog to find out.
For Club and Country: It’d be unfair to say the Rapids have ever been a consistent MLS power, but the past couple seasons have been low points (at least so far in this one). What has gone wrong to lead to this slump for the club?
Abbie Mood Lang: The Rapids have been in a slump for a few seasons (with the exception of 2016). Some people say things have been in a slump since Gary Smith was ousted at the end of 2011. This year, there has been a ton of turnover – new head coach, many new people in the Front Office, 12 new players added to the roster, and a few key injuries. It’s been a rough go and there isn’t really one thing in particular that I can put my finger on. Some people are starting to blame Head Coach Anthony Hudson, but I think he’s trying to figure out what might work. It’s just not working.
FCAC: The Rapids took some flak for not seeming to take Concacaf Champions League seriously (and more so when their apparent focus on the regular season has not seemed to pay off much). Are they expected to give only token attention to the US Open Cup, or do they maybe see it as a chance to salvage something out of what looks like a season-gone-sideways in MLS play?
AML: I think very much the latter. The Rapids are desperately looking to snap this losing streak and Coach Hudson told me they are taking the Open Cup seriously.
FCAC: A lot has been made in Nashville of history with the Rapids – particularly coach Gary Smith, keeper Matt Pickens, and defender Kosuke Kimura, who were all on the 2010 MLS Cup champions (also 2018 Rapids draft pick Alan Winn). What are the feelings in Denver about that trio? Is there a sense that history plays a role in how the Rapids approach the game?
AML: Rapids fans are very excited to see how Coach Smith and the guys perform. We just have one guy (Assistant Coach Conor Casey) that is still around from the Smith era, but many fans remember them and are really psyched about this match-up.
From the coach/player perspective, as I mentioned there aren’t any guys that played for Smith left, so it doesn’t seem to have any more significance than playing any other team would.
FCAC: Similarly, a lot in town are excited for the first (meaningful) test against an MLS side, because Nashville will be in those ranks soon. Does the fact that this could be a regular-season fixture in a couple years affect the way the Rapids approach or view this game?
AML: I don’t think so. From my discussion with Hudson about it, they just want to win and get things back on track. Open Cup game or not, they see this an an opportunity to build some confidence. That being said, they definitely aren’t taking it lightly. Everyone knows this isn’t going to be an easy game.
FCAC: I would assume the majority of Nashville fans’ knowledge of the Rapids is “Tim Howard is their keeper” (maybe some are familiar with the fact Edgar Castillo’s on the team, as well). Who are some of the key players for Colorado, and if they’re not going to run with a full lineup tomorrow, who are some of the important faces you expect to see?
AML: Key players for us in general that we may see tomorrow are:
Forwards: Dom Badji (Rapids’ leading goal scorer)
Midfielders: Jack Price (we acquired him from the Wolverhampton Wanderers in the offseason and he’s had a big impact), Johan Blomberg (can cross passes into the box on a dime), Marlon Hairston (he’s been injured but I expect to see him in the game)
Defenders: Tommy Smith, Danny Wilson (may be injured, though)
FCAC: Finally, do you have a lineup prediction? Any other specific predictions (including a final score)?
AML: I can’t even being to predict who might play beyond Zac MacMath in goal (Timmy can’t play two games in one week). Hudson told me it will be a mix of regular starters and young guys, but they have to go to Houston on Saturday and then play Chicago at home on Wednesday, so he’s got to conserve some guys, too.
Final Score: Rapids 3, Nashville 1