COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – It’s finally here. The first Thanksgiving Day game in the history of MLS. Colorado Rapids hosting Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup Playoffs, at a possibly sold out Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids come into their first playoff game after their first round bye. Portland have shown their playoff credentials as Playoff Sebastian Blanco led the team past Minnesota United. Pidsgiving is happening. With that, here’s my Rapids Timbers preview.
Rapids Timbers Preview: Sebastian Blanco and Intensity key in Thanksgiving Day Playoff Match
Colorado have had 18 days off since Decision Day. Midfielders Mark-Anthony Kaye and Kellyn Acosta had international play to get ready while the rest of the team had an inter-squad scrimmage last week. This game could come down to the midfield.
“Most guys benefit from being in environments like that. It’s going to bring out more in me on Thursday and hopefully help us win. [The intensity] has been high. It is a long break between Decision Day and our first playoff game. When I came back, I heard the 10 days of training was good,” Kaye told Last Word.
Portland looked good, especially in the second half on Sunday. Their defensive craftiness and knockout play experience exceeds that of Colorado. Blanco could be the focal point of the match, either making the winning play or being shut down by the home side in defeat.
“They’re opportunistic. They’re the type of team that waits for you to make mistakes. Blanco is a top player. Diego Chara has been in this league for a long time and I have a lot of respect for him. I’m excited to see how I match up against him since he’s very defensive minded and tries to break up plays,” said Kaye.
“We have to be very dilegent when [Blanco] is on the ball and especially when we’re on the ball. He likes to pick up space when the other team is going forward and then get in transition. We can’t get too tied up on him, they have other good players. Their front for is as good as any in the league. It’s going to be difficult,” Danny Wilson told Last Word.
Injuries have been a topic for both teams. Robin Fraser confirmed to Last Word on Tuesday that the team has a clean bill of health. Keegan Rosenberry did not play in the final four games of the season. He is in contention and no one has missed training this week. On the other side, the Timbers got healthy just in time. Larrys Mabiala got health in time for the game on Sunday. Blanco appeared to have some pain in his back in the first half but was played through it spectacularly.
“We home that is going to be ready to play on Thursday. We have a short window to recover. We have to prepare and hope that everyone is going to be available,” Timbers manager Giovanni Savarese said. Any significant injuries would hurt Portland’s chances significantly on short rest.
Intensity and focus will be the key for both teams. Portland had one defensive lap on Sunday and it cost them a goal. Colorado’s shown collective resolve all season long, but in their one game at Portland, they gave up two chances up a man that got the Timbers a 2-2 draw.
Last Word: Prediction
I’ve got the Rapids winning this game in a close, tense 2-1 match. Jack Price should deliver a goal on a set piece. The game could open up and get frantic in the second half. Both teams score in transition. Between Colorado’s collective play, Portland on short rest, and the crowd being the twelfth man, Colorado gets the result in 90 minutes.
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