We interviewed Abbie Mood of Burgundy Wave before our Western Conference semi-final first leg. Read it here.
Colorado has the best defense in the entire league. How has the Rapids defense been able to stay focused and compact throughout the whole season?
I think the Rapids defense has been incredible, especially considering that we switched goalkeepers in the middle of the season. We've had some guys move in and out (mainly due to injuries), but there have been a few consistencies: Axel Sjoberg, Marc Burch, Michael Azira, and Sam Cronin. They have amazing discipline (usually), and work incredibly well together. Jared Watts also seems to be finally hitting his stride in his third season and has really impressed (and surprised) me. He and Tim Howard seem to work well together. And then there's Howard himself. While most of us think that Zac MacMath was doing a fine job, no one can deny that Timmy has made some clutch saves.
As Rapids Rabbi put it in his most recent article - "This defense doesn’t let folks get behind them. Sam Cronin is still pretty quick, and his positioning, along with the ability of Jared Watts and Axel Sjoberg to read and space the defense in relation to Cronin and Azira, mean that we don’t ‘get beat’ by speed from the run of play much."
Your form, however, is not as it could be heading into the conference semi-finals having dropped points in two straight games. What do you think is the main reasoning behind it? Was it the pressure of the Shield or were they simply looking ahead to the playoffs?
No, the Rapids' season finish was not ideal, but I'm not worried about it. While of course it would have been great to get the Supporters' Shield, the playoffs have the big payoff with the MLS Cup. When Pablo Mastroeni decided to rest some regular starters in Portland, I took that as a sign that the playoffs were his priority. I think the Houston game was a matter of underestimation. It was a disappointing tie, but I don't think anyone is too concerned about it.
Playoffs take a completely different mentality, and if the Rapids can let the last couple games go and look forward, I think we'll be fine. LA is tough to beat at home, but so are the Rapids. I'm expecting a good couple of games, but I honestly think the Rapids will come out on top. Between last year and the last couple years, something has shifted in this team and they truly believe in themselves.
Three forwards have five or more goals on the team. How important is to have such a versatile attack?
I'm glad you see it as a versatile attack, because most of us would love to have a player who could consistently score double digits goals in a season. Really though, we have a couple players who have been hot and we can typically count on someone like Shkëlzen Gashi, Dominique Badji, or Marlon Hairston to put one in.
We've also had a different front line lately, and Badji/Hairston are a dangerous combo. Throw Gashi, Kevin Doyle, or Sebastien Le Toux into the mix, and you get seven goals in the last five games. The Rapids offense seems to finally be heating up, and hopefully that will continue into the playoffs.