MLS Soccer

Colorado-Sounders projects as battle of midfield

Eyes will be aimed at midfield Saturday when Sounders FC visits the Colorado Rapids.

This is expected to be the first match of the season where Seattle coach Sigi Schmid will have the option of starting what has projected as his first-choice midfield of Marco Pappa, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda and Lamar Neagle.

Meanwhile, a new-look midfield is receiving much of the credit for Colorado’s defensive success so far, resulting in four shutouts over the Rapids’ first five games.

“They’ve really improved themselves defensively in terms of the midfield,” Schmid said. “(Marcelo) Sarvas is a new addition. (Lucas) Pittinari is a new addition. (Sam) Cronin is a new addition in there. They’ve revamped their whole defensive midfielder group.”

For the first month of the season, Colorado’s defensive mentality came at the expense of its attack. The Rapids’ first three matches were scoreless draws. That run ended April 4 when New England broke through for a pair of goals and a 2-0 win.

That left the Rapids sitting on some very uncomfortable numbers, including a 17-game winless streak dating back to last season and a 362-minute scoreless streak to open this year — the second-longest in league history.

But that came to an end in the second minute last week at Dallas, when Dominique Badji scored Colorado’s first league goal in six months and more than 10 hours of play.

With that dam broken, the flood came with additional goals by Dillon Powers, Gabriel Torres and Dillon Serna and led to a 4-0 win that the Sounders assume leaves the Rapids eager to get back out on the pitch.

“The first couple of games they were getting chances, but they just weren’t finishing,” central defender Brad Evans said Friday after his return from U.S. national team duty. “All of a sudden they explode against Dallas. So obviously dangerous on both sides of the ball. They’re defensive-minded, but also now they’ve gotten the goals underneath their belts. It’s a dangerous time to play that team.”

Unfinished chances have been a key topic in Seattle since Sunday, when the Sounders fired 10 shots on target at Los Angeles — five by Neagle — but suffered a 1-0 loss.

That leaves Seattle with six goals in five games, but evenly divided between only two players: Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.

Dempsey missed the Los Angeles match with a hamstring issue. He flew to Colorado with his teammates Saturday, but Schmid indicated that how he uses Dempsey could be a game-time decision.

There seems to be more certainty one row down, where Pineda is back from red-card suspension, Pappa has returned from international duty and Alonso has recovered from an early season hamstring injury. One or more of those issues has kept that unit from sharing the field so far this season.

“It can be a problem when you don’t have all the team together,” Pappa said. “But during a season you have to handle that kind of stuff. … I think I have to shoot a little bit more. The last two or three games I didn’t shoot any to the goal. … I scored (six goals last season), so I hope I can get some this year.”