Defense solid, Rapids fret over finishing woes
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — The good news is that the Colorado Rapids’ defense is the second best in the league in statistical terms. The not so good news is that the team has scored only 10 goals in nine MLS games so far this season.
While the back four and goalkeeper Matt Pickens have conceded only seven goals all season—fewer than all but the ridiculously stingy LA Galaxy—Rapids coach Gary Smith would love to see some improvement in front of their opponents’ goal.
Smith knows that it is not for a lack of effort or skill that the team is falling short in terms of finishing. And the team’s spirits—not to mention those of Conor Casey himself—were stratospherically lifted when the big striker netted the winner with a peerless chip over Kasey Keller in the win over Seattle on Saturday. It was Casey’s first league goal from something other than a penalty kick since September last year.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Casey said after the game. He admitted that the scoring is not there but he clearly hopes the goal will be the key to unlocking the floodgates. He also believes the team is playing as well as they have done in recent years.
Coach Smith said the game could have been put away very early on if very good chances had been converted.
“There was a lot of discipline and determination but we could have been out of sight in those first ten minutes,” he said. “There is a long way to go but we got another home result on the back of a very good away win.”
The Rapids beat D.C. United in their previous league game, a 1-0 road victory on May 15.
What is encouraging for the Rapids is that the shape of the team that Smith seems to prefer is not putting an undue overreliance on Casey and Omar Cummings upfront. While the striking duo have notched six of the 10 Colorado goals between them this season, the midfield has been pitching in. Mehdi Ballouchy has scored twice with Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz each have one. Forty percent of the goals have come from the Rapids’ revamped and resurgent midfield.
“There is a nice balance within the group,” Smith said. “I am extremely pleased with where the group is.”