Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ljungbergless Seattle to Offer Stern Test for Rapids

No Freddie Ljungberg! Major blow. It would have been a real thrill to see the former Arsenal man playing against the Colorado Rapids tonight for the Seattle Sounders but persistent migraines will not allow him not travel to Commerce City. But this Sounders team will still be a stern test for the Rapids who will seek to preserve their unbeaten run at home so far this season. Not only Montero in the midfield but also Zakuani upfront as well as a tight defense and a classy, experienced goalkeeper. Gary Smith knows they will be a formidable opponent. "They have started the season incredibly well and are full of confidence," he said at training this week. "They have lots of energy and adrenalin from their home games and they are trying to implement that on the road." But Smith knows that the Rapids will also provide a stern test for the Sounders, sterner than that offered by Dallas last week when the Texas team was reportedly very lucky to escape with a point. Smith likes the consistency the Rapids are showing and the choices they are making. "They know when to push the buttons and when to be a bit more frugal," he said. "I think this group is looking pretty accomplished and well organized."
Competition within the team for a starting spot remains intense, no more so than on the back line. Smith is a man who doesn't like to reveal much of his starting line-up but he did say this about last weekend's half-time substitution of Kosuke Kimura who was replaced by Cory Gibbs. "We needed a change and I thought we looked better," he said, noting that the team "loses a bit going forward" when Kimura is not playing. He also noted that Ugo Ihemelu would be an ideal opponent for Zakuani on the left to stop the youngster's dangerous runs. Scott Palguta continues to play well in the center and Jordan Harvey appears to have locked down the left back position. Upfront picks itself and the only other question is what role Terry Cooke may have tonight. Cooke, as you probably all know, has been in England visiting his son who was injured in a car accident. Thankfully, his son is doing well and Cooke was back training this week. He had been away for some time, however, and Mehdi Ballouchy arguably had his best game of the season last week against New England. If I was a betting man, I think Cooke will come on in the 69th minute and curl one past Kasey Keller into the top corner.
It should be a pretty packed house tonight by all accounts, Denver Nuggets home game notwithstanding, so let's get behind the team because those Seattle fans will bring plenty of passion. Kickoff is at 7.30pm.

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