View from the Booth: No substitute for experience

Play-by-play announcer Richard Fleming provides his analysis of the Rapids draw with Portland

Dillon Powers celebrates his first pro goal on March 30, 2013

Photo Credit: 
Bart Young / Colorado Rapids

At some point in life you've got to stop pondering on the 'what ifs', knuckle down and get on with it.

The patched-up Rapids did that on Saturday at home to the Portland Timbers and will feel rightly disappointed that they were denied all three points.

We can look back at the FC Dallas opener, or the rash of injuries which blighted the trip to LA and wonder: rather than staring at just two points from five games, maybe the Rapids could have had eight or nine.

Individual errors have proved costly. Finishing in front of goal has been poor … and then there are the injuries.

Ah, yes, the injuries …

The line doing the rounds has been: "Bring your cleats in tomorrow, you may get a game."

Full Match Highlights: COL 2, POR 2

 

Get a game!? At this rate I could get a decent run of games, because the injuries suffered have - in the main - not been short-term niggles.

In alphabetical order, we have Calderon, Castrillon, Harbottle, Mastroeni, Pickens, Rivero, Smith and Wallace sharing the now limited space on the treatment tables.

Granted, Smith and Wallace are picking up the pace in practice, whilst Rivero is edging ever closer.

But add to that the suspension of Drew Moor, who will serve out his two-game ban with the visit of Real Salt Lake (4/6), and you have nine senior players unavailable.

Of those, you have your first-choice keeper, two center halves, your holding midfield man and the creative flair. In other words, the very spine of your team from which the rest of the eleven is built around.

So, I don't care which team you are, most would struggle if nine potential starters were sidelined.

And to his credit, Oscar Pareja is not one to use the injuries as an excuse. After watching his team let slip a 2-0 lead at home to the Timbers, he rather bemoaned the penalty decision which allowed the visitors to draw level.

But I do look at the injuries, and I do insist that is a massive factor in the situation the Rapids find themselves.

Were it not for the injuries, would Irwin, Klute, O'Neill and Powers be given as much (if any) game time?

To be fair, all four youngsters have done the club proud. Against Portland, Klute and Cascio, I thought, worked well down the left.

O'Neill - the Rapids' first Homegrown player to start a MLS game - had a mature performance at center back. He also came close to making it 3-1. Only a finger-tip save from Ricketts prevented what surely would’ve been the killer goal from the 19-year-old.

GOAL: Powers hits a rocket for first career goal

 

Powers with - in my words - 'an absolute beauty' of a maiden MLS goal, fought and scrapped in midfield in trying conditions, whilst Irwin was again assured in between the sticks.

But there is no substitute for experience, and that is what the Rapids are lacking at crucial moments. Concentration levels have to be at 100% for 90+ minutes.

Timbers' first goal came about when possession was given away with a sloppy pass in midfield, allowing – seconds later – for a cross to be delivered onto the head of the unmarked Will Johnson. A free header 10-yards out should not be happening.

Momentum is key in close-fought contests and that goal then changed the mood of the game. Timbers grew in confidence and began to push and push, resulting in the scramble in the box and the infringement, which resulted in a penalty being awarded.

Offensively, the stats suggest more of a threat going forward. The Rapids rattled in 17 shots, against a Timbers side which had restricted the opposition to ten shots or less in all three previous games this season.

That's testament to the positive approach from the Rapids, but a wonder goal from Powers and a penalty from Hendry Thomas (also his first for the club) taints that figure somewhat.

Carving out chances is one thing. Carving out clear-cut chances and putting them away is another. And that has been a problem for the team this season.

Admittedly, conditions were not conducive to smooth, free-flowing soccer on Saturday. The swirling wind made for something of a lottery. Passes were over-hit, or held up significantly, putting doubt in the minds of the players. The first touch became all important, and for some the lack of match action was evident.

The day after the Portland game, Edson Buddle re-Tweeted a famous quote: "In sport, you don't get what you wish for, you get what you work for."

You can't question the work being put in by the Rapids, but I just wish this run of bad luck would end and then we can truly see what the Rapids really can achieve when you blend youth and experience, hard work and – yes – a little bit of good fortune.