View from the Booth: Pareja, take a bow
Asked at half-time of the New England game what was needed to turn things around, Rapids coach Oscar Pareja replied with just one word, ‘urgency’.
The players duly obliged, as the Rapids came from a goal down to defeat New England Revolution 2-1.
A worthy three points when you consider the complete domination:
- Attempts on goal 16-7
- Possession 62.7%-37.3%
- Open play crosses 29-8
- Total passes 444-260
- Passing accuracy 80%-66%
Had the Rapids not turned this game around, then there would have been severe questions. The goal conceded was rather soft, the urgency was again lacking first half and decent chances had again gone begging.
Full Match Highlights
Pareja has shown in recent weeks that he’s not afraid to take bold steps in order to alter the direction of a game.
Deshorn Brown and Tony Cascio came on in Montreal, and were big players in that comeback win.
Brown came off the bench against New York and found the net.
Against the Revolution, it was the introduction of Atiba Harris which seemed to be the game-changer. Harris came on for Hendry Thomas, which took many by surprise … but it paid off.
When the team does well, the players get the credit. Alternatively – in some quarters – when the team performs poorly, it’s often Pareja in the firing line.
What the past few games has shown me is that Pareja knows his players. He knows what system is working, and he is swift to change plans when things go awry. He’s a thinker, and he’s brave.
The return of Marvell Wynne, whose absence from previous line-ups had some wondering whether his days were numbered at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, was a master stroke. Wynne, arguably, had his best game of the season. He showed character, which is what Pareja demands from his players.
Soccer fans have long memories, so let me take you back to the early part of the season, when the Rapids rash of injuries were used as another stick with which to beat Pareja and his coaching staff.
Injuries happen in sport, just ask Seattle, who this week reported as many as 12 players sidelined – including their three goalkeepers.
The Rapids have endured some tough luck this campaign, but now find themselves stronger as a consequence. The spate of injuries early on forced Pareja to ‘try out’ Chris Klute (Diego Calderon injured), Nathan Sturgis (Hendry Thomas), Clint Irwin (Matt Pickens) and Dillon Powers (Martin Rivero). On top of that, Shane O’Neill was thrown in after Drew Moor’s dismissal at LA.
Out of adversity comes opportunity.
As a result, the Rapids approach the latter stages of the regular season knowing what most players on the roster are capable of. Pareja has been forced to tinker with his line-up and, in doing so, knows what works and what doesn’t.
The early-season woe was also character building. It strengthened the resolve of this squad, another great trait to take down the stretch.
Ask a coach to list his priorities in the chase for the playoffs and, in no particular order, I reckon it’ll include:
Healthy bodies, creating competition for places.
Battle-hardened players, with minutes under their belt.
Check, check and check.
Things are good in the Rapids camp, but let’s not rest on our laurels. There’ll be tough times ahead. Teams are beginning to up the tempo.
Unbeaten in four, with 10 points from a possible 12 is the ideal response to the run of three successive defeats, and has thrust the team right back into the play-off mix.
There still appears to be a cutting edge which is missing. Yes, the team’s on a great run – and long may that continue – but too many opponents have had the door left ajar when they ought to have been finished off .
As we approach the business end of the regular season, do not allow missed opportunities to come back and haunt you.
Urgency, intensity and a clinical eye for goal … I don’t ask for much.
A sideshow from Wednesday’s win was yet another referee who knew how to blow his whistle, stride down the field and tell players to hurry along. After doing that four or five times, he wasn’t sure what came next (hint: a yellow card). Less posturing and more decisive action from our match officials.