Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City | 2017 MLS Match Preview
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City
2017 MLS Match Preview
Dick's Sporting Goods Park – Commerce City, Colo.
Saturday, May 27 – 8:00 pm ET
WATCH: MLS LIVE
Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard is maybe the greatest American goalkeeper of all time, having been the No. 1 'keeper in two World Cups (2010, 2014), owning the most wins in US national team history (57) and registering the most caps of any goalkeeper (112). He is likely to be the starter when the US play their next two World Cup qualifiers in June and could become the first American 'keeper to be the No. 1 for three World Cups next June. But looking at recent form, he may not even be the best goalkeeper on the field on Saturday when the Rapids face off against Sporting Kansas City.
Tim Melia has been the best goalkeeper in MLS so far this season, leading a Sporting KC defense that has conceded just 0.69 goals per game, the lowest figure in MLS. He and Nick Rimando are the only two players with two penalty saves, one of which helped preserve a draw against D.C. United, and his save percentage from shots inside the box is off the charts. Melia's percentage sits at 75.68 percent, almost seven points higher than any other 'keeper this season, and that figure would be the second-highest since Opta began tracking the stat in 2010.
Digging into the expected goals numbers also shows how special he has been. Sporting KC have conceded a total expected goals value of 12.89 this season, meaning that they would be expected to score 12.89 goals on average based on the quality of their chances. The fact that SKC have conceded just nine could mean that their opponents have been poor at finishing, but it's also undeniable that Melia has had a hand in stopping opponents. The 3.89 difference in goals vs. expected goals is the second-largest in MLS behind Toronto FC (4.62) and Sporting are one of only four teams whose expected goals figure is larger than the actual goals they have conceded.
After a much-needed win in Week 11 against San Jose, the Rapids fell back to the form they have showed for much of the season in Week 12, losing at the Chicago Fire and Philadelphia Union. Luckily for them, road losses against non-conference opponents aren't the end of the world.
With 23 games left in the season, there's plenty of time for Colorado to get back into the playoff hunt. They currently sit nine points behind Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who are occupying the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. They got a lift in their task to accomplish this with the return of Axel Sjoberg on Saturday, who had missed the previous eight games due to a hamstring injury. Head coach Pablo Mastroeni will look to build back the team's defensive chemistry with the 2016 Defender of the Year finalist back in the fold.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – M Nana Boateng (back injury); QUESTIONABLE – D Jared Watts (calf injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-4-2): GK: Tim Howard – Marlon Hairston, Kortne Ford, Axel Sjoberg, Eric Miller – Shkelzen Gashi, Micheal Azira, Dillon Powers, Mohammed Saeid – Dominique Badji, Kevin Doyle
Notes: In 2,452 minutes with Badji on the pitch since the start of the 2016 season, Colorado averages 1.1 goals per 90 minutes. In the 1,837 minutes they have played without him, that number falls to 0.8 goals per 90 minutes.
Sporting Kansas City
Melia isn't the only reason that Sporting KC have been the best defensive team in MLS so far this season. Ike Opara should be in contention for Defender of the Year, and his absence was felt on Saturday when Sporting lost 2-0 at Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The rest of the Sporting backline was in place besides Opara, but it was clear that the former Demon Deacon, who was given a rest after a midweek win vs. Seattle, could not be replaced by Kevin Ellis. Sporting have dropped both games Opara has missed, and have conceded a combined four goals. In the 11 games he has started, SKC have conceded just five.
Dom Dwyer's status is still up in the air, after he missed the match against Vancouver due to a knee injury, and his absence was felt as Sporting KC registered just two shots on target. Since 2014, Dwyer has scored over a third of the team's goals.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – F Diego Rubio (torn ACL); QUESTIONABLE – F Dom Dwyer (knee injury), F Soony Saad (ankle sprain)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): GK: Tim Melia — Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic — Ilie, Roger Espinoza, Benny Feilhaber — Gerso, Dom Dwyer, Jimmy Medranda
Notes: Sporting have only won two of their last 22 league road games (12L-8D), dating back to April 17 of last year. This includes three losses in their last four road games (1D), where they have been outscored 7-2 and been held scoreless in all three losses. Ilie Sanchez has 103 ball recoveries so far this season, tied for the third-most of any field player in the league in 2017.
- Overall: Sporting KC lead 24-22-14
- At Colorado: Colorado lead 17-5-8
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Assistant Referees: Cameron Blanchard, Andrew Bigelow
Fourth Official: Younes Marrakchi