View from the Booth: Rapids on the rise but tougher tests to come
"Good day at the office, but next week's a toughie."
Those the words from my elder brother after Saturday's 2-0 home win over Chivas USA. He's now following the Rapids from afar, back in the UK.
Highlights: COL 2, CHV 0
My response was: "Should be … FC Dallas need pegging back, but confidence high and great rhythm."
That great rhythm was highlighted in both goals against Chivas, which came about through slick passing, clever movement off the ball and instinctive finishing.
The manner of the goals at Dick's Sporting Goods Park were particularly pleasing. Players were delivering passes into space, safe in the knowledge that a teammate would be there to latch on to it.
Martin Rivero to Deshorn Brown, Brown's quick feet found Chris Klute, who delivered a cross on to the out-stretched boot of Atiba Harris - 1-0.
Marvell Wynne started the move with a pass up top to Edson Buddle. Back to goal, Buddle squared to Brian Mullan, who threaded through three defenders, for the galloping Brown to find the near post and the on-rushing Nathan Sturgis - 2-0.
Chivas were left floored by two goals, the first of which involved four Rapids players, the second of which involved five.
The level of understanding between these guys, of course, comes from playing together more and more, but it also helps that confidence is oozing out of the burgundy jerseys.
All good sides start at the back, and this Rapids team is no different. A fifth shut-out of the season. Indeed, a fifth shut-out from the last seven games. Seven games in which the team has amassed 17 of its 19 points, scored nine goals and conceded just three.
So when FC Dallas stroll into Dick's Sporting Goods Park on June 1, as Western Conference leaders, they'll face an in-form team, backed by boisterous, loyal fans.
Players thank staff
Those in any doubt as to the unity within the club ought to have been at practice on Friday. The ticket sales staff - the un-sung heroes - were invited to observe training, as a 'thank you' for selling-out the Chivas fixture. What they didn't know was that they would also get asked, by skipper Pablo Mastroeni, to join the players in the middle of the field for the group huddle.
People are slowly beginning to take notice of the Colorado Rapids, acknowledging what they're striving to achieve both on and off the field.
What this past weekend showed me, aside from the fact that this Rapids team is yet to reach its full potential, is that success cannot be gauged by one person's actions or by one single event in time.
I could point to areas which are still not the finished article. Against Chivas, passing wasn't always inch perfect. Possession was given away a little more than one would've liked in midfield, and there were times when concentration levels dipped and positioning was questionable.
But take any of the great soccer sides in history - Hungary in the 1950s, the Brazilian side of the 1970 World Cup, the Dutch masters and their 'total football', Milan of the 1980s and - more recently - the Barcelona boys under Pep Guardiola. Even they will have noted room for improvement.
Always tinkering, always tweaking, always seeking to be one step ahead of the rest.
So, whilst the Rapids revel in this enjoyable spell, there's no room for complacency. By his own admittance, Atiba Harris was aware that finishing has been an issue. So he stayed after practice on Friday for an hour to work on that very 'weakness'. The following day, he scored the Rapids' opening goal.
That speaks volumes for the work ethic, mentality and desire coursing through the veins of these players.
We have a phrase in England … 'Big-time Charlie'.
It was usually aimed at players who thought they were better than they were, and strutted around the field whilst putting in half a shift.
They don't exist at the Rapids.
Coach Oscar Pareja took time out last Thursday to send an email around to all staff, highlighting the hard work done by the sales team in getting as many bums on seats as possible for the Chivas encounter.
He didn't have to, of course he didn't. But he did, because he values the role the sales staff played in creating an atmosphere in which his players could thrive.
The players, in turn, stick around after the final whistle to sign autographs. This is the players recognizing the role that the fans play.
Nothing, and nobody, is taken for granted.
Win together. Work together. Lose together. Stand together.